Thanking God for the Kindness of Strangers

The reason for the first Thanksgiving was simple gratitude.  Gratitude for simply surviving.

The colonists were grateful to God for their survival in a new land.  The native inhabitants of that land had shared their know-how and their bounty with the new arrivals.  That generosity had, in turn, helped them to survive.  The colonists were most appreciative of the kindness shown to them by strangers.  They brought forth their own harvest to be shared by both native and new Americans in a Thanksgiving feast.

All of us are taught these stories in school.  Today our nation celebrates the kindness of strangers on Thanksgiving with a sumptuous meal enjoyed by families of every kind.

Thanksgiving is a big deal for the Los Angeles Mission for several reasons.  It is an opportunity to thank God for each and every person He puts in our path.  We spend this day reaching out to our friends and neighbors with a great feast of the best food we can prepare and serve.  Famous chefs come forward each year to work with our kitchen staff to prepare a memorable meal.

We relish the chance to create afamily atmosphere for those who are often isolated on the streets of this city.  We want to become family to those who could use some simple human kindness.

But feeding people out of the goodness of our hearts is only one of the reasons we shut down 5thstreet to put on a lavish Thanksgiving meal.  To be honest, we hope to focus attentionon the issue of homelessness.  In addition to that, we want to shine a spotlight on the often-unnoticed good work being done in the Skid Row area.  Our ultimate goal is to focus constructive public attention on the painful reality of people living on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.

Spotlighting that harsh reality is the reason we invite celebrities to show up to serve the homeless.  Their very presence gets the media to come here to see what The Los Angeles Mission does day in and day out.  We ask them to share their thoughts about the need to end homelessness with their fans, the public.

We want to raise awareness about the issue of homelessness.  We think it is essential that we do this during a holiday that focuses people on their gratitude for home and family.

We want everyone to realize and to understand that thousands of people in Los Angeles have no home – or at best, temporary and terrible living arrangements on the street.  Now, more than ever, it is crucial to understand that we can all rise above racial and ethnic differences to work together to end homelessness.

Right now in 2015, the government counts more than 41,174 people in LA County who have no reliable place to live. This represents a rise in homelessness by 16 percent since 2013. The increasing cost of rent seems to be driving 13,000 people every month out into the worst circumstance of all: living on the streets.  Some keep moving from place to place, some stay overnight in shelters and many more camp wherever they can outdoors.

We are appalled by this situation.  We see a repulsive rotation between the sidewalks of our city, our hospitals and our jails.  We don’t think this is right; to say the very least.  The causes of homelessness are as varied as the population.  Some have lost jobs.  Some have gotten divorced or become victims of domestic violence.  Some people have mental health issues.  Still others have drug or alcohol issues.  Some suffer from a tragic combination of these issues.  People with intractable addiction and mental health problems cannot possibly be expected to successfully fend for themselves on the streets.

We work each and every day to reach people that everyone else turns away from and forgets.  There are hundreds of such individuals who now live productive lives after first coming in to share a meal at the Mission.  Over the years, we have seen how a person can change from the inside out.  We know what amazing people they can become because we have seen it happen.  Each of them deserved a chance to reclaim the life they lost on the streets.  We thank God for them — each and every one.

At the Los Angeles Mission, we have spent 79 years earning a reputation for being a reliable resource for people in need.  We welcome everyone.  We offer help, hope and opportunityto those in need.  We can promise you, wholeheartedly, that we are careful stewards of every one of your donations.  We work hardto help those who have no place to call home.  We ask you to remember to help these lost and lonely people as you thank God for your own home and family this year.

Honoring Our Veterans


Harvey Shells Vet

There is a promise inherent in military service: that the government will care for you when you return from war.  Unfortunately, veterans all over this nation are suffering from neglect of one kind or another.

The toughest truth about those who have served our country in the military is not only that our government has failed them, but also that they wind up living on the mean streets of this land.  Fully ten percent of the homeless in Los Angeles are veterans.  A lot of times they are reduced to living like animals in the streets while they suffer from numerous mental and physical health problems.

The Veterans Administration, despite sending the VA director to walk the streets of downtown Los Angeles, is still falling far short of meeting the most basic health needs of America’s war veterans.

Despite a lot of high-minded discussions, the numbers of homeless veterans who can’t find jobs and have nowhere to go have stayed about the same.  But there is some good news this Veterans Day.  The powers that be are finally talking about ways to maximize a property in West L.A. — donated for the benefit of veterans many years ago.  Talks about turning it into veterans housing have finally started.

More good news: there is an ongoing effort to identify and get help for the veterans on the streets of Skid Row.  Government and nonprofit organizations like the Los Angeles Mission are working together to come up with ways to help veterans. Everyday, the Los Angeles Mission seeks out veterans who come into our facility for a meal, to explore ways to get them much-needed assistance.   It is a good start. But it is just a start.  Much more work must be done to meet veterans’ need for jobs, low-cost housing, and mental health counseling.

On this Veterans Day we honor those who have served this country in war and in peacetime.  We want to express our heartfelt appreciation for our veterans’ service to this nation.  At the Los Angeles Mission, we continue to work every day to help those veterans who are in need.