Skid Row in our backyard

During the summer of 2006 a youth pastor friend from Chino was hosting a group of 45 high school kids from the midwest for a week long mission trip. He had heard that Kingdom Causes did work with the homeless and asked if I would be willing to figure out some activity that would help the teens to learn about homelessness.

I decided an urban hike through skid row would introduce them to the harsh realities of homelessness. It was incredible. Even though I had lots of experience with homeless folks, I was taken aback at how many people lined the streets between Pershing Square and San Julian. Tents and boxes all over the sidewalk housed veterans, drug addicts, mentally ill moms, and even kids. Needless to say we all walked away at the end of the day with a new understanding of the realities of homelessness in LA.

Last fall things began to change in Skid Row. The city officials put pressure on the local law enforcement to put more pressure on the residents of Skid Row through the Safer City Initiative. The hope was that with more pressure from police the homeless population would not be as concentrated, and the properties in the area (mostly empty factory buildings now converting to trendy loft apartments) would increase in value and popularity with hip young couples.

Almost a year later, it seems that the initiative was successful. While 10 homeless shelters remain in the area, the "permanent" residents have moved out to the surrounding cities including Bellflower.

On Good Friday, the director of the Savlation Army Harbor Light Center was the speaker at the Kiwanis prayer breakfast. He shared about his ministry and as he closed he told us about the fact that Skid Row is coming to our backyard and he challenged the church and community to be prepared to help.

I have seen God at work in the church of Bellflower over the last few years preparing us to care for these our these our vulnerable neighbors. He's using the Christians involved with the Homeless Task Force to create support structures and to build relational bridges that help people who are on the streets.