A few months ago, I stepped into my worst nightmare. Skid Row in broad daylight is a frightening place — but at night, these streets descend into something right out of the Twilight Zone. Yet that’s where I decided to spend the night, along with my good friend Sugar Bear, who wanted to make sure I stayed safe.
I did it because I want to experience what the precious people I serve experience out there. Sometimes it’s easy to close your eyes to the reality of these streets, to block out the abuse, the inhumanity, and the horror. But I want to see it — really see it.
Almost 2,000 people call these streets home each night. The night I stayed out, we shared a section of sidewalk crammed with at least 45 men and women, not including the gangsters, drug dealers, and predators who watched us carefully farther down the street.
All night we were surrounded by drug use, violence and fights, chaos, crippling stench, and fear. One woman moaned and screamed throughout the night. The ever-present rats boldly looked us in the eye and scurried right over sleeping bodies. At one point, we witnessed someone beating a man over the head with a lead pipe. If we hadn’t broken the fight up, I don’t think the man would have survived.
Soon a scantily clad woman rapped how she was the bride of Satan and Charlie Manson, while another woman offered her body to everyone on the sidewalk for $2. When she reached me, however, she changed for a moment. She simply asked, “How are you doing, sir?”
My heart broke. I wanted to say, “Don’t you know how valuable you really are as a human being?” But she soon resumed her trade down the sidewalk.
In the wee morning hours, a street-cleaning truck nearly crushed someone sleeping in the gutter.
I only spent one night on that sidewalk. I was so exhausted I couldn’t have endured another. It’s impossible to imagine what these streets do to a soul night after night after night.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I opened my eyes to see the painful reality. I’m glad because I’m now more determined than ever to do everything I can to help more men and women escape this Skid Row nightmare and rediscover real hope and new life at Union Rescue Mission.
Thank you for Helping to Save People on Skid Row
This summer, nearly 2,000 men and women call the streets of Skid Row home. Below, please read how some of our guests at Union Rescue Mission describe the reality of these streets.
“ The streets are dangerous. You can get someone hurt for $5.”
“ Summers on Skid Row, it’s crazy hot. It’s miserable. But I was so focused on getting high, I didn’t care about anything else.”
“ Skid Row in summer is hell on earth. The heat, the body odor, the stench on the sidewalks — everything is more miserable than italready is.”
Let’s Restore Lives on Skid Row Together
Born in Guyana, South America, I’m familiar with poverty and despair. But today, as captain in the Los Angeles Police Department overseeing Skid Row, I can say I’ve never seen anything approaching the misery and hopelessness that people living on these dangerous streets experience.
Trash is piled on the sidewalks, filth and grime cover everything, stench fills the air, gangs rule the streets, and almost 2,000 men and women live in an environment that facilitates disease and crime.