We toured PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) in Hollywood, and then Union Rescue Mission and the Weingart Center on Skid Row.
Between them they house 1500 or so people (and these are only three of many services), helping folks get a new start with social work, and in the Rescue Mission's case, Biblical discipleship. The homeless population in LA is estimated at 51,000 on a given night.
Skid Row is not quite as daunting as I imagined, but I've also gotten more used to hanging out with the homeless. We strolled down various streets amongst the population, drawing no attention in some cases, and a few comments in others. One person suggested I was a touring "philanthropist" and another asked April if that was her real hair color (red). I overheard a couple of guys combining their resources, one saying "OK, we've got twenty three cents..."
In LA they have made it legal to sleep on the streets, and illegal to remove someone's stuff from the sidewalk; both respecting and also perpetuating the look and feel of an area with a concentration of nearly 5000 that simply live on the streets here.
At the end of the day, I had met people serving the homeless who believe help hinges on case management and social work, others who believe the real hope lies in a relationship to God, and me concluding it's a little of both. People must want change and have hope that it can happen. Social work can only get you so far. Real change comes from the transforming power of God in our lives.
I like the expression that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. I enjoy being in a ministry where the first step is caring; meeting people where they are at, then offering hope and a framework for life change built on Jesus.
I love the Lord's Prayer... here's an excerpt: "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." It's our job to bring God's kingdom to earth. And guess what? There's no skid row in His kingdom. Everyone is loved and cared for.
Here's to giving everyone we meet a taste of God's kingdom through loving care and compassion.