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#HashtagLunchBag: What I've Learned Feeding 300+ People in LA

Central East LA "Skid Row"

The homeless rate in Los Angeles is a serious issue, moreover, it also has become increasingly difficult to find affordable housing. Over 59,000 people are classified as homeless due to lack of shelter or stable housing. The issue is especially visible in the downtown area classified as "Skid Row" the central east area of LA. Most Angelenos avoid this area, due to the strong misconceptions of the poor and an underlying fear. Fear that the mental illnesses of those who live on the street will harm or rob them of their material possessions. Although mental illness is a major component of homelessness, it is not the reality of most Angeleno street residents. There are people who've once by societal definition "had it all" and simply loss it, due to unfortunate circumstances. There are people with degrees, skill trades, Hollywood talents, wealthy families, and intellectual richness that somehow found their way to a life on the streets.

For me, this area is classified as "The Forgotten". In a big and affluent city, we have the one of the highest disproportionate rates of homelessness in America. This is certainly not normal but it has become all too familiar.



Earlier this year, I decided to host an event to help feed the homeless. As the date started to approach, I was contacted to assist in feeding 300+ people by distributing the lunches to the Housing for the Homeless organization. Two days, before the event I was notified that they no longer needed my assistance, I'll admit I was devastated. I couldn't figure out how I would be able to distribute 300+ lunches without giving them directly to an organization. I decided to go out into the community and give them directly to the homeless. It turned out to be the best choice I could've made. While I am new to LA, I used various platforms to gather people to volunteer and help get the materials. From that, an amazing woman named Caryn DiMarco showed up and we singled handedly tackled 100 lunches alone. Working together, we were able to not only feed the homeless, but pack inspiring quotes and words in the bags.


My Biggest Takeaways

1. Homeless people are no different from you The homeless population in LA, has varying degrees in their backgrounds. There are people living on the streets who've held the same positions you are in right now but just fell hard on bad times.

2. We all want the same things: To be heard, seen, and loved. Having a lack of shelter does not exempt you from wanting to feel love, desired, or simply have feelings of attractiveness. There's a beautician named Shirley Raines who helps homeless women look and feel their best. Offering pro bono hair and makeup services for women and men on Skid Row. The average critic would suggest, beauty and makeup should be their least concern, however, they are still humans and no one can deny the power of looking and feeling good. There are no bounds to the results those services could achieve.

3. Change can happen in a blink of an eye At the beginning of this year, I volunteered on Skid Row at the "Carnival of Love" and met a woman name Rose. During our initial meeting, she walked hunched over with her head down, spoke very softly, and seemed completely unsure of herself. She had an aura of low confidence and was very guarded. After guiding her through the carnival, her spirits lifted and we decided to keep in touch. Through the power of communication and social connection, her life has completely changed. In just about 4 months, she now lives in Texas (no longer on the streets in LA), enrolled in college, has her own apartment, and even a pet cat! Sometimes people just need someone to talk to and believe in them. The power of feeling socially connected should not be taken lightly.

4. Your destiny is not tied to your current circumstances When things go left, it's so easy to get caught up in the idea of forever. "My life is over" "I'll never get out of this" "I'm worthless" "I've made too many mistakes" Where you are now, is not your potential. It is not the end. It is not your final destination. You ave many more lives to touch, people to experience, things to see, lessons to learn,

5. Allow people to help you This was a personal revelation, I'm always so caught up in doing things on my own and working independently that I directly and indirectly give people the idea that I don't want or need help. When the truth is, sometimes I'd like the help and everyone needs it. Even if it is just a listening ear. The day before the event, I wanted to cancel it and complete all of the lunches by myself. Then I told myself, the help you've always wanted is there, not only do you have to be open to receiving it but also accept it. Two hands are always better than one.

"Not all Queens live in castles, some live on the streets." Shirley Raines

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