Archive for December 2011
Last week the Los Angeles Mission released information about homelessness in LA as part of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions survey in which the Mission participated. The study confirmed some aspects of our work that we know from experience – ethnicity, gender and aging.
What it did reveal to us were some interesting facts about our population compared with other Missions across the country. One that is most troubling was the rate of violence experienced by our guests prior to coming here: 27% vs. 21% nationally. Another was the rate of referral to services by both self and family combined: 82% vs. 69% nationally. This self-referral seems to indicate an appreciation of our services.
Also, the need for education is greater in LA than on a national basis: 9% vs. 3% (no school completed). Fortunately our Salvatore Learning Center is available to all we serve. We do focus on GED completion for all those in our programs.
The number of Veterans we serve is surprisingly slightly less than Missions in other cities: 8% vs. 13%. This may have some relationship to the fact that our guests seem to have fewer benefits available than the national results: 62% vs. 56%. This may also dovetail with the higher percentage of those experiencing mental health issues: 36% vs. 30%. We continue to struggle with the mental health issues of our guests. The lack of services in relationship to the need continues to be a challenge for immediate and long term placement. There are some wonderful programs available, just not enough.
Included in the need is the ever present lack of affordable housing. This may be permanent supportive housing for those requiring such service or just permanent affordable housing for those wanting to get off the streets or out of hotels and cars.
One of the wonderful additions to skid row is the new Downtown Women’s Center housing facility. It is a lovely setting with good services for women in this area. If only we could replicate it a hundred fold across Los Angeles we could make a huge dent in our attempts to end chronic and family homelessness. You can see the complete survey of the needs in Skid Row on our website’s Homeless Articles page.
In the spirit of the holidays, please remember those among us who need rehabilitation or just a place to call home. For more information, please visit our website LosAngelesMission.org.
-Herb Smith, President
The economy may officially be on the upswing, but we here at the Los Angeles Mission and dozens of other similar organizations across North America see the recession’s lingering effects daily. Thirty-five percent of those who ask for help on a given day say they’re homeless for the first time (a slight drop from 2010), according to the 22nd Annual Snapshot Survey which was conducted this October by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM), which Los Angeles Mission took part in.
I am aware that dire financial situations can lead to a multitude of men and women on Skid Row, and we’re here to aid and serve the community. We offer hope and practical help daily, whether people need a few living essentials or are in desperate need of shelter. Of the currently homeless, 31 percent say they’ve been homeless fewer than three months, and 21 percent say they haven’t had a home for three to six months. Of the people the Los Angeles Mission serves, 23 percent reported being homeless for the first time, including 15 percent who had experienced homelessness for three months or fewer, and 21 percent who hadn’t had a home for the three to six months.
Rescue missions’ outreach includes some 17 percent of those who seek aid who classify themselves as not currently homeless. Here at the Los Angeles Mission, 12 percent of those served define themselves as not homeless. Whether homeless or not, more than 80 percent in North America and 85 percent locally say they prefer a mission with a spiritual emphasis. Eighty-six percent of total people surveyed of the homeless population are single individuals. At the Los Angeles Mission, 84 percent of people surveyed fall into that category. We see individuals ages 45-65 most often with 87 percent men and 13 percent women.
Another notable trend on the survey was increased reported violence against homeless individuals. In the past year among those who visited rescue missions across North America, these reports have increased 6 percent to 21 percent; among those served at the Los Angeles Mission, they have increased to 27 percent.
The Snapshot Survey provided an overview of the demographics of those in need as well. Thirty percent of those served at rescue missions struggle with mental illness and 14 percent are veterans. Sixty-four percent of rescue mission clients are 36-year-olds to 65-year-olds, with the young (under 18) and the old (over 65) being the least likely to receive help at these organizations. Men are more likely to be at a rescue mission with reports of 74 percent compared to women reporting 26 percent. Most people seeking help are white (50 percent) or black (34 percent); 9 percent are Hispanic.
We continue to see new faces of homelessness every day. Women with children and families looking for food and work. Our food basket requests are exceeding our ability to produce them each week. Many of these faces resemble Christina and her husband who spent a night in the park before coming to the Mission for help, dished out with arms full of love.
The Annual Snapshot Survey, completed in October 2011 by almost 19,000 individuals at 114 gospel rescue missions in North America, provides a valuable snapshot of those seeking assistance from rescue missions. Involvement in research such as this is beneficial to the functioning of the Los Angeles Mission so we may improve the delivery of hope, help, and opportunity to the men, women, and children in need.
As the needs of those we serve shift and grow, we will be fluid enough to shift and grow right along with them.
-Herb Smith, President