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Article: Challenging Stereotypes with The Midnight Mission on Skid Row

Author: Vanessa Edmonds, Executive Director, U2030

Have you ever thought (or perhaps even said), “Just get a job,” in response to a homeless person asking for spare change? While you’ll likely admit that it wasn’t your finest moment (or mine), it is a common reaction to panhandling that stems from the belief that homelessness is a choice and that those "taking advantage of it" are lazy. 

It turns out that homelessness is a complicated issue that isn't always about bad decisions or lack of motivation. Very few people want to live in unsafe conditions where hunger and illness are daily struggles. These grim realities became apparent to me when the Utility 2030 Collaborative (U2030) sponsored a Corporate Volunteer Serve Day and Hygiene Kit Assembly for The Midnight Mission in August 2023.


About The Midnight Mission

The Midnight Mission is a well-established non-profit organization in Los Angeles, California’s Skid Row community. For over a century, it has provided comprehensive services and support to individuals experiencing homelessness, along with those struggling with addiction and related challenges. Its services include:

·       Temporary Housing

·       Community Outreach

·       Emergency Services

·       Recovery Programs

·       Job Training and Employment Services

·       Education and Life Skills

·       Healthcare Services

·       Nutrition Programs

·       Mental Health Support

·       Reintegration into Society


Through these services, The Midnight Mission aims to break the cycle of homelessness by addressing its root causes and offering a helping hand up, not the all-too-common pushdown.


More on Skid Row

To understand the conditions on Skid Row, imagine 50 city blocks in the heart of Los Angeles, where 8,000 – 11,000 people live at the margins of mainstream society. At any given time, 2,000 – 3,000 Skid Row residents live in "tent city," a network of living quarters poorly constructed of tarps, blankets, and boxes. Others reside in homeless shelters, and the few single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels still remain in this area.

The most fortunate Skid Row residents occupy mini apartments in new or renovated buildings built by non-profits like the Skid Row Housing Trust. Another 400 residents receive housing assistance from The Midnight Mission.


An Eye-Opening Experience

U2030 sponsored a Corporate Volunteer Serve Day that included donating $1500, serving breakfast to 800 The Midnight Mission and Skid Row Communities residents, and assembling and donating 800 hygiene kits worth $2500.


We learned that many homeless individuals are eager to work and actively seeking employment. But their journeys are riddled with obstacles, like no permanent address, lack of clean clothing, and limited transportation options. These realities make the pursuit of stability an uphill battle.


Many homeless individuals hold low-wage or temporary jobs, but they struggle to secure the one thing that could change their trajectory: stable housing. This is especially true in cities like Los Angeles, where the cost of living is 43% higher than the national average.


Making a Lasting Impact

Making a real impact on homelessness isn't just about handing out spare change on the street—although loosening our purse strings could make someone's day. We can make a more significant impact by supporting organizations like The Midnight Mission, which is breaking the cycle of homelessness through a proven path to stability and self-sufficiency. U2030's project was gratifying and enlightening, and I highly recommend it for individuals or groups with up to 20 people.


There are several other ways to support the Midnight Mission. To learn more, follow this link: Get Involved | Midnight Mission.


Final Thoughts

My time at The Midnight Mission shed light on the stark realities of homelessness and the stereotypes surrounding this complex issue, including those bred deep in me. The Midnight Mission, with its commitment to addressing the root causes of homelessness, offers hope and

tangible solutions for folks challenged by homelessness.


For people like me, fortunate members of mainstream society who have a bed to sleep in each night, it challenged knee-jerk stereotypes about the root causes of homelessness. Thanks to everyone who participated in this project!​



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