Although Skid Row is only a 30-minute car ride from St. Francis High School’s La Cañada Flintridge campus, the situation of the nation’s largest stable population of homeless persons often seems a world away. However, for 13 St. Francis students the harsh realities faced by the homeless was brought to light recently when they participated in the school’s Christian Service Immersion (CSI) program that took them at the Midnight Mission on the corner of 6th Street and San Pedro in downtown Los Angeles.
As participants of the CSI program, each student volunteered to spend part of their Easter vacation serving those in need on Skid Row. The students visited the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Cardinal Manning Center and delivered socks from a recent campus sock drive.
According to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, on any given night in Los Angeles:
• Just over 43,000 people are homeless, almost 20% of these families with children, the highest homeless population for any major metropolitan area in the country.
• Another 16% to 20% of homeless adults are employed in low paying jobs.
• 42% are chronically homeless individuals having one or more serious handicaps such as mental illness, substance abuse, or a physical disability.
• 73% of low-income renters pay more than 50% of their earnings in rent.
For more than 50 years, the Cardinal Manning Center has been a constant presence for homeless people in the Skid Row Area of downtown Los Angeles. As noted on their website, the Center’s primary goals are to enable homeless men, women and children to:
• Stabilize their life circumstances
• Regain their self-sufficiency, and
• Find permanent housing & employment
Manuel Sanchez, the organization’s Youth & Young Adult Services coordinator, walked the students through Skid Row and educated them on the issues and concerns affecting the homeless and needy. After walking throughout the area, the young men returned to the Midnight Mission to help prepare and serve lunch for close to 1,000 people. Throughout the day the students also had the opportunity to listen to and talk with those affected by poverty and struggling with hopelessness.