The Good Shepherd and a Preview of Skid Row

January 4, 2016

Hey everyone! My name is Denise Ma from St. Mary's University in San Antonio, TX. This morning we started our day at the Good Shepard helping them do a little house cleaning and inventory. At the end of our service, Bro. Brandon talked with us about how the shelter was structured. The sisters convent in the front and the mothers and children towards the back. He pointed out how this was a representation of how the sisters are laying down their lives to protect these families from people who want to harm them. That really struck something in me. We always here the stories of Jesus laying down his life for us and here He is right in front of us. Through the sisters we can see His love for us and how love will always conquer evil.
We were also able to drive through Skid Row in the afternoon. We've all saw the documentary and heard so many things about the homeless population, but I don't think anything prepared us for what we saw with our own eyes. Every corner, every inch of the street, were tents, people, and trash. We've all experienced homelessness one way or another. Whether we ourselves were homeless or we have seen it in our own communities. One thing I think we can all agree on is how much it pains us to see our brothers and sisters struggle in this world that has so much to offer. I think many of us forget that those aren't just "homeless people," but that they truly are our brothers and sisters through Christ. We would never leave our family members in the streets and yet we do.
Despite the homelessness, the one positive thing I saw at Skid Row was community. All the tents were homes, it is where they seek shelter, comfort, and warmth. Just like our homes built with bricks and wood where we seek shelter, comfort, and warmth. Skid Row has become these people's homes and I know this sounds crazy, but it was beautiful to see the unity of this community of people who had everything stripped away from them. Despite everything they have been through, we see how human they are, just like us. They have friends, just like us. They laugh, just like us. They eat and drink, just like us. They are just like us. Except for we have a house and they have a tent.
I'm not sure how we can end this, but those are our brothers and sisters and we need to do something.

Denise Ma
St. Mary's University
San Antonio, TX

Hey everyone! My name is Kristine Perez from the University of Dayton in Dayton, OH. After a stressful few days of getting ready for the trip, we're finally in LA! Our first stop today was Good Shepherd, where we helped inventory items from their sale to raise money for the shelter. We weren't able to be present with the women and children who lived there, but we were able to interact with the staff members. Throughout the morning I could feel the pure enjoyment and happiness that exuded from them, from the volunteer coordinator, Francine, to the teachers who worked in the elementary school within the shelter. Even when telling us the stories behind why families ended up there, they remained lighthearted and positive, and I could feel their determination to help their brothers and sisters in Christ by simply being in their presence. It was comforting to see such a welcoming community within the shelter along with the beautiful elementary school, and the well-kept playground, knowing that the children would still be able to a live happy childhood despite the history of domestic violence.
After our visit to Good Shepherd, we took a little time out of our day to drive through Skid Row. Growing up in a very sheltered, affluent community, it was unlike anything I had ever seen and it definitely opened my eyes to a huge problem within our society. Before our trip, we watched a documentary on Skid Row that followed the stories of a few who lived there, and passing through in the car today, I felt as if I was actually in the documentary, living the reality of the people in the film. Skid Row is their home, it is their everyday life, and there was such a thin boundary between this community and "normal" downtown LA. One minute I was looking at pleasant shops and clean streets from the car window, and I saw rows of tents, shopping carts filled with bags and people sitting on crates, the next.
Tonight in prayer, we all spoke about a feeling or experience that stuck with us today, and mostly everyone mentioned Skid Row. We were at Good Shepherd for a few hours, where we spent no more than 5-10 minutes driving through Skid Row. I think it speaks volume that such a short period of time can affect each and every one of us to the point where questions are raised and we are still in shock at the end of the night. It makes me wonder that if more people were to simply take a drive through the streets, would we as a society would be more compelled to do something and help, rather than pat ourselves on the back for not being in that position?
There was a moment when we were at a stoplight, and I looked out at a man sitting on the curb, surrounded by plastic bags and raggedy blankets. We made eye contact, and my initial thought was to look away, since I didn't want him to think I was observing him in pity. I held the gaze for longer than I expected, and right when the light turned green and we started to pull away, he cracked a little smile at me. A little shocked, I smiled back, and in that moment I shared something with a man seemingly completely different from me. We're at different points in our lives, our life experiences are unlike each others, but we are both human. In God's eyes, He loves us the same, no matter what our backgrounds. I look forward to being present with the people of Skid Row more this week, and I hope to learn and share more with them than just a warm smile behind a car window.

Kristine Perez
University of Dayton
Dayton, OH

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