A walk down San Julian Street in Los Angeles― or Skid Row, as it’s more commonly called―is an experience that stays with you.
A walk down San Julian Street in Los Angeles― or Skid Row, as it’s more commonly called―is an experience that stays with you. The street is lined with people who seem lost and without hope. Here live thousands of people who are homeless; many suffering from mental and physical illnesses, drug and alcohol addiction, trauma and isolation. There are men and women of all colors and ages and backgrounds. A good number of them, both men and now women, are veterans of wars, from Vietnam to Afghanistan. Many of the women―and some of the men―have experienced domestic violence and sexual abuse. And yet, whatever their stories, they are all someone’s child, brother, sister, parent―and they are all human beings deserving of dignity and hope.
And both dignity and hope do exist in Skid Row. If you look beyond the ragged people, the shopping carts filled with bags, the smell of urine in the air, you see that there is much that is beautiful in Skid Row and that there can be a way out for these people. But only if we do what is needed and refuse to accept that people must―or want to―live on the streets.
Recently, more than 40 of us from all across the country, representing 35 foundations both large and small, toured Skid Row, accompanied by residents and former residents. We saw both the worst this country has to offer, and the very best. We saw despair side-by-side with hope and it was a call to action for all of us working in philanthropy.
A journey between despair and hope
The beauty and hope that is Skid Row exists in places like the Downtown Women’s Center, a safe home for women facing the harsh realities of homelessness. It exists at the JWCH Community Health Center, which provided mental and physical health services for 7,500+ homeless individuals last year. And it exists at the Skid Row Housing Trust and SRO Housing, both places that provide permanent supportive housing for those who previously were living their lives on the mean streets of LA.
We spoke with residents who described their journeys from despair to hope. They talked about what it means to have people who care, people willing to invest in their lives and their futures. They spoke about friendship and trust and hope and their words touched us. On Skid Row, we saw real evidence of what philanthropy canaccomplish, if it does the right thing. Because of the commitment and investment of foundations, individuals, and providers, there is beauty, there is dignity, and there is hope in Skid Row.
The same can be true in any city and town across our country, in every Skid Row, large and small. Wherever there are people who are homeless and who are suffering there is an opportunity for foundations, United Ways, and individuals to take a stand, to do what is right and to invest in solutions that work to end, not manage homelessness. There is no better outcome than to know that all those sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and children out there who are now living on the streets or in shelters can and will have a safe and permanent home.
As Executive Director of Funders Together, Anne brings years of expertise in both the corporate and not-for-profit sector. She is passionate about promoting the philanthropic community’s catalytic role in ending homelessness, working with government to create public-private partnerships, and advocating for funding and policies which end, rather than manage, homelessness.
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