Within sight of downtown Los Angeles’ towering, silver skyscrapers live thousands of homeless men and women. They spend their days scavenging for food, a drink, a drug fix, and sometimes all three. Many sleep in tents pitched on sidewalks, or in alleyways in an area known as Skid Row. In its heart, on the corner of San Pedro and East Sixth Street, stands The Midnight Mission, offering hope to those who are ready for help.
Halfway through our tour of The Midnight Mission, David – hefty, clean-shaven, dressed in dark slacks, a long-sleeved shirt and a tie – led me into a gymnasium-size room partitioned into eight by ten feet cubicles. Each has a bed, a small desk and a dresser. “This,” David said, “is where I stay.” He was so well spoken that only then did I realize he was not an employee of The Midnight Mission, but one of its 250 live-in clients.
There are many factors contributing to today’s coast-to-coast rise in homelessness. Chief among them is the scarcity of jobs and of affordable housing. In Los Angeles, the smallest studio apartments start at $1,200 or more per month, making housing unaffordable, even for persons working minimum wage, full-time jobs. In addition, many among the street homeless also struggle with mental health issues, alcoholism, and drug addiction. More…
Charles says it was the looks on his children’s faces as they watched their mother beating him that finally moved him to file for divorce.
“We had many fights, Charles says. “Once she took a knife to me, and I wound up with 58 stitches. My kids would ask, ‘Why don’t you defend yourself, Daddy?’ And I told them that a man doesn’t beat a woman.”
Fifteen years ago, when his daughter was two, and his son just an infant, Charles lost his eyesight for two days. Though he did not kno it, his vision loss signaled Type 2 diabetes.
With no health insurance, Charles did not see a doctor. One month later, things got worse. Charles remembers, “I was working 13 hours a day pouring concrete. We’d lost twins at birth and I was worried about the new baby. A month later I went into a diabetic coma for eight days. It stripped me of my energy. I’ve never been the same man.” More…
At 19, Shannon was pregnant, married, drinking heavily and using drugs.
Now the mother of three boys, ages 27, 25 and 10, she is clean, sober, and working full time at Joy Junction, a faith-based organization serving the homeless in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“For 21 years it was the same cycle of always going back to my husband,” she says. “He would try to get clean and sober, but things kept getting worse.”
They were evicted from one apartment after another. Each time, they forfeited furniture and other belongings. “There was one stretch, she recalls, when we lived in a motel for 18 months.” More…
Reno grew up in Memphis, the son of a police officer and the grandson of a minister. Other than some wild-oats years in his early 20s, he lived what he describes as a quiet, alcohol-and drug-free life. He has four children and 13 grandchildren. All of them live in Tennessee, but none in the Memphis area. His wife died 20 years ago in a car accident. He has never remarried.
When the bottom fell out of the housing market in 2009, Reno had to close the small paint-contracting business he had started a few years earlier. He tried cutting back on payroll and other expenses, but there just wasn’t enough work to keep the company going.
Though he’d had a 38-year career in the painting business, working for Sherwin Williams and The Home Depot, Reno was not old enough to begin drawing on Social Security. At the time he closed his business, no one was hiring construction workers or paint contractors. Without a job, Reno fell behind on bills and had to sell his mobile home. “That’s how I wound up at the Memphis Rescue Mission,” he explains. More…
The youngest of nine children, Lindsey was adopted at the age of eight by her maternal grandparents. Now 30, she lives with her three children in a Florida shelter for families.
“My father was out of the picture, living on the west coast. My mom was going to put me in foster care when my grandparents adopted me. They were there for me. My mom was not there for me, and I don’t want to be that kind of mom to my kids.”
The father of Lindsey’s first two children says he wants to be involved in their lives, but he is not helping to support them. He lost his drivers license, and has been unable to keep a job.
Lindsey agreed to share an apartment with her father. He had just moved back to Florida from the west coast, and Lindsey had separated from the father of her two older children. As a single mother with an 11-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, she was struggling to keep her apartment.
“My father just could not control his drinking. He finally totaled my car. That’s when things really began to unravel for us.” More…