On The Street – Anything Goes
It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be 56 years old and have nothing to show for it. I’m ashamed, depressed, and mad at myself. But I don’t have anyone else to blame but me.
I was raised by churchgoing parents, who taught me about the value of school and hard work, about right from wrong, and respecting others. But when I was 13, I started hanging around the wrong kids. One day, we started drinking on a street corner, and before long we’d graduated to marijuana, PCP, and finally crack cocaine — and everything my parents taught me went out the window.
By 1994, drugs stole everything I owned, so I rode a bus to Skid Row, where I ended up living in a cardboard box on the sidewalk.
I can tell you, sleeping on these streets is dangerous. There are some sick people out there.
Once they find out you’re weak, they’ll jump you first chance they get. I’ve seen women beat and raped. I’ve seen people get killed. Anything goes. That’s just the way it is when you’re an addict on these streets.
But the thing is, once you’re out there, you don’t care about anything anymore — not even your own life. All that matters is the drugs. You’ll do anything for drugs. I’ve seen women, and even men, selling their bodies for $2, $3, $4. I never did that, but I can’t say I never would. That’s where the drugs take you.
For 17 years, I lived on Skid Row. There was a time I thought it was all cool. But I can admit it now, I was a fool. Over the years, I saw God save a lot of guys like me at Union Rescue Mission. Finally, in December 2010, I heard God tell me to come here, too.
I’ve stayed away from drugs ever since. Now I’m learning the tools I need to stay clean and sober when I leave. I’m learning that I have to choose my friends carefully, to hang with positive people. It’s the only way I’m going to make it.
I’m 56, and it’s time to live life and be responsible, to step up to the plate and be the man God made me to be. To do that, I know I’ll need a job. Some people say, because I’m older, no one is going to hire me. But I’m not going to use that as an excuse. I’m going to do my best. I am not going to give up on life. After all, God saved me and I know He’ll help me get it right this time.
Make a Difference Today – Help Someone on Skid Row.
For the past 120 years, thanks to thousands of caring people just like you, Union Rescue Mission has transformed the lives of countless hurting souls on these streets, leading them back to health and wholeness — and home.
Often it doesn’t take a lot to help a hurting man or woman escape Skid Row and get back on their feet. But today, thanks to an extraordinary matching grant, your generous gift of $25, $35, or more will help provide TWICE the food and shelter and a fresh start at life for people experiencing homelessness.
So please send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you!
I recently hosted a Los Angeles Times reporter on a walk through Skid Row. It was a cold, damp day, and we met a woman living on top of a pile of garbage on the sidewalk. She had no shoes or socks, struggled with mental illness, and she shivered from cold and terror.
She’s not alone here. The number of people “living” on these streets has grown to nearly 2,000. Some are victims of the economy. Former prison inmates are dumped here. Many folks have landed here due to a lifetime of bad choices. But one thing is for sure — all of them are struggling to survive in a living hell you wouldn’t want your own dog living in.
Trash heaps are piling up, giant rats are running rampant, crime is up, violence is increasing, and we find more dead bodies every week. These are precious human beings made in the image of God. I am more determined than ever to transform lives here on Skid Row through Union Rescue Mission. It’s what God has called us to do — and it’s what we do best.
Thank you for caring with us
Rev. Andy Bales, CEO.