The Homelessness Crisis
If you live in LA or have been here recently, you're surely aware of the issue facing our community regarding homelessness.
As Malynda's single "Story" shares, there are roughly 58,000 people in Los Angeles living without homes, with around 18,000 living in the concentrated area around Skid Row (adjacent to downtown Los Angeles and the fashion and arts districts).
How has this happened?
There are a variety of frequently-blamed reasons for this issue. One is the rising costs of housing. Another is lack of resources for our brothers and sisters, including veterans, who suffer from mental health issues or substance abuse problems.
Likely, it's a combination of the items mentioned above, and in some cases, probably additional challenges that our privilege doesn't force us to ever have to consider.
Regardless, if we are going to make any differences in this crisis, we have to take action and stop waiting for someone else to do something.
This can be tricky, I know... Whether you're looking to help directly or through an agency, it can be scary. It's easy and natural to wonder if the money you're donating actually goes to help the people, and in what way that happens.
If you give money to a person you encounter directly while on the street, how do you know that person is going to actually use it for food or shelter as opposed to alcohol or drugs? If you donate to a charity, how can you be sure that it will be spent on benefitting the population you're trying to help as opposed to being misused, misallocated, or to line the pockets of a crooked politician or similar?
For the first one, you really can't, unless you go with the person you're helping and buy them a meal, or a night in a hotel/bus fare/etc. This is not only a great way to help them, but could be even more valuable to you - I think you'd be surprised what you can learn from someone by spending time with them, and I think that learning the stories and humanity of people in these situations could be very eye-opening.
I understand that this is scary. I lived in LA more than a year before I did more than try to avoid this population; I didn't feel safe going alone. That's where other resources come in.
If you're concerned that your financial donation won't impact the un-homed as much as you intend when donating to an organization, one possible suggestion is to use charity navigator to investigate how funding and donations are used.
Another suggestion is to remember that money isn't your only resource, but that time is as well. Places like the LA Mission gladly accept help from volunteers, and I found that attending their events (like their Skid Row Easter celebration) takes some fear and pressure off, because it's organized and you're not alone. This could even make a great Tinder date and barometer of who you're meeting on dating apps!
I'd also recommend collecting or purchasing different items that are helpful and donating them, either directly to people you meet, or to organizations. If you know you will be in the area, putting items like socks, personal care/hygiene items, and nutritious snacks together to give away can make an impact. You can donate these directly to people you meet who ask for help, or to shelters.
There are thriving communities you can support on Skid Row, too! On one of my trips down there, I met Stephanie Arnold Williams, who truly changed my perceptions on people living there. She's a FIDM graduate who does donation-based alterations, gives sewing lessons, and is now operating a book store on the corner of 5th and San Pedro, and working to get donations for blood pressure testing on Skid Row. If you have something you need altered, want to buy, sell, or trade books, or are looking to learn to sew, why not consider supporting Stephanie and her community?
You can also support from a corporate standpoint, whether or not you have a corporation. When I met Stephanie, she shared that she needed a new tent, and that they needed solar panels to help charge their cell phones. I donated and helped raise money for the tent, but then I let my fingers do the walking - I sent Facebook messages to several generator companies and was able to find one that donated a solar panel and generator to the community! I can't even begin to describe how happy it made me to see the impact that was made just by sending a few Facebook messages! She insisted we do a Facebook live, so you can see if for yourself here:
Yet another way to make a difference is to stay informed on different policies and how they can impact others. If there's legislation being considered that could be beneficial or detrimental to these people who need help most, we must make sure their voices are heard, whether that's by voting, writing or calling politicians, or having discussions with our friends and family ("hey, #weneedtotalk")!
With the vast number of options there are, it is definitely possible for everyone to help. And it's important not to underestimate the impact even a small gesture, amount of time or amount of money can make. I know I can think of several times when a smile from a stranger changed my whole day! The most important thing we have to do is not sit around and ignore it.
What are some creative ways you can make a difference with this issue?
Mandie Brice is obsessed with personal development, and the idea that if you look better and feel better, you'll do everything else better, too. A former teacher turned model, then makeup artist, writer, and podcaster, she loves sharing what she's learned in her never-ending quest for self-improvement from the inside-out. She's originally from the Midwest (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to be exact) has been living in LA for two years, with a stop in the Bay Area for the three years before that! Her writing has been featured in publications like Apple News, Huffington Post, and Forbes.com, among others, and her makeup work has been on major television networks, People Magazine, Women's Day, Prevention, the cover of the Village Voice, and Malynda Hale's face.