The America You’ve Never Seen: Skid Row


CNN has posted an excellent, in-depth look at life on Los Angeles’ Skid Row.  You should take the time to read it.

I’ll never forget my first visit to Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles in 2006.

As our van turned onto the crowded San Julian Street, I could hardly believe I was still in America.  After all, I was in the midst of the downtown of one of America’s most modern cities.  We pulled off to park on the street that was filled with people waiting to receive a meal from the Jesus-focused Union Rescue Mission

The van door was sliding open when I raised my head to see the street scene opening up in front of me.  The first thing I saw was a homeless man sticking a needle in his arm and shooting it full of heroin. 

I froze in place, jaw dropped to the ground.  I then looked around at the sunny, Southern California skies, the sky scrapers in near distance, and again wondered if I was still in America.  I mean, where were the police?!  I regained my composure, lowered myself out of the van, and was immediately met with some of the most pungent smells that I have smelled to this day.

The next couple of hours serving these wandering, displaced people on the streets of downtown Los Angeles was something I will never forget.  The mental illness, the hopelessness in the voices of those living in tents, the stories of those wanting to break out of a life of drug addiction and homelessness, but not able to find the courage to take the first step to accept help and be taken away from their little “community” on Skid Row… it was all other-worldly to me at the time.

On this trip, I was visiting Skid Row to offer rescue to anyone willing to get back in the van with me and my team members and take a short ride up the 101 to the Dream Center – a ministry that was started by a hero of mine, Pastor Tommy Barnett.  The Dream Center has rescued hundreds of people from drug addiction, poverty and homelessness all over the streets of Southern California.  I believe in the ministry so much, that I even gave my 1992 Dodge Dakota truck to them when I was a poor college student in 2004.  (That’s a story for another day.)

Many of us in America will never see anything like Skid Row in our lives – unless we make it a point to visit this place, or another inner-city refuge of homelessness.  Yet these place exist, and many spend their lives serving these who find themselves at the furthest margins of American society.  I really do encourage you to read the CNN article, and then say a prayer (or give a donation) for those who are in the midst of the battle against homelessness and addiction in the U.S.


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