Los Angeles has the largest population of chronically homeless people in the country – nearly 13,000 people are living unsheltered. Ninety-five percent of LA’s homeless live in encampments, on the streets and in cars. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the homeless veterans population in LA is 2,700. LA also has more than 3,000 unaccompanied homeless youth.
While in LA this past November, I visited The Midnight Mission, a non-profit that has been serving the homeless since 1914. There I joined about 80 men and women in singing Christmas Carols, and listening to the Nestle Choir. I also heard some moving and powerful stories, including from one Midnight Mission resident who just one year ago went from talking to himself while pushing a shopping cart stuffed full of scavenged junk to restored dignity, and reconciliation with his family.
The following day, The Midnight Mission hosted a stand down for veterans. After WW II and the Korean War, millions of vets were able to find blue-collar jobs at which they could earn a living wage. In today’s economy, these jobs are largely gone. As a result, many vets are unable to find jobs that enable them to support themselves.
On my last day in LA, I was surprised to discover and event, Home Walk 2016, being held to support the homeless in downtown LA. Thousands of people walked through downtown to call attention to the plight of the city’s street population. While photographing the walkers, I noticed a homeless man standing on a street corner. Before I could speak with him, a gentleman came up to the fellow and asked, “Are you hungry?” He then handed the man a couple of small boxes of raisins, a banana and an apple.
“Do you do this often?” I asked. The young man explained that he, too, had once been homeless. Now, whenever he has time and extra food, he walks the streets, giving out food and helping those he can.
Among the homeless and those who are committed to serving them, I regularly meet warm and loving human beings. One fellow I spoke with, who moved into The Midnight Mission just four months ago, observed “Everybody’s got some good in them.”
The pictures that follow were made Nov. 17-19, 2016.