So after a few days of meetings, special details and other things, I was finally able to break away from it all and walk a foot beat in the heart of Skid Row. It was the worst I had seen in in years. I was completely disheartened by it all.
I only walked a block away from the station when I was met by the living breathing embodiment of failure. Along with people with handicaps, the elderly and others, I had to walk in the street due to tents blocking the sidewalks. Every other person I saw had a black eye. As usual, when I asked what happened to them, they timidly put their head down and mumbled “I fell,” as a group of watchful, able bodied intimidating individuals stared them down to endure that was the answer.
I was surprised by the number of women I was now seeing who were bruised up, but perked up upon seeing me stride down the street. As if for that moment of brevity, they were safe. I came upon a pile of trash; one of many that nearly came up to my knees. A homeless man said to me as I stared at it “I’m getting it officer” as he swept mounds of trash left over from good intentions from the gutter. I thanked him and moved on.
I arrived at one of the missions and saw a commotion in the street. I approached to de-escalate it, and as I got closer, I observed multiple homeless people jostling for clothes that had been dropped-off, literally in the street, as cars swerved around to avoid striking them as bouts of tug of war broke out over jeans, blankets, and other items they did not even need.
No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I still cannot get over the inhumanity of homelessness donors, dumping clothes in the street for the homeless to fight over them like animals, in the name of helping them. If they just would have stuck around for a moment, they would have noticed that not one of them were without clothes or a jacket. I knew where those good intentions were going to go as soon as I left, it would be bartered into a meth pipe.
As I helped push the clothes and the people back onto the sidewalk to keep them from getting hit by a car, one lady just sat in the street. After a few minutes of coaxing, she got up and ambled away mumbling to herself. As I watch her leave I hear a scream. An inebriated mentally ill woman was sitting on the sidewalk challenging anyone with the balls to do so to catch her hands as she sipped on a Colt 45. I walked up to her, and tapped her on the shoulder. She turns with her dukes up and cane in her hand. All of this while many homeless people greeted me and hugged me.
When she realizes it was me, she gathered herself and tears begin to well in her eyes. “Where you been Joseph? They won’t leave me alone!” I calmed her down and relieved her of her liquid courage. I did not want her to drink anymore to end up a victim or a suspect. Her love for me turned to anger. As she balled up her fist a familiar face decided to come to my rescue.
My 70 year old fiancé attaches herself to me. She was in full mamma bear mode to protect her giant chocolate cub. I restrained her and told her in broken Spanish, that I was fine and could handle it. She stood down, but had her own cane at the ready should I need back up.
The angry woman I was dealing with, calmed down again and apologized to me, but continued to curse everyone around her. As I walked away she yells “I’m gonna get another beer Joseph!” I walked away shaking my head, but I wasn’t alone. My fiancé put her arm in her arm and made me walk with her. I obliged her, because I did not want her returning to the other woman to defend my honor.
As we walked she continued to talk to me in Spanish. Whatever she was saying, it was clear she was passionate about it. I just said “Si!” After every pause, not even knowing what I was agreeing to. As we arrived at another corner, I ran into a woman I rescued years ago. She was doing very well. It was a bright spot in the midst of Dante’s Inferno. With my fiancé in tow, we walked northbound.
A mentally ill woman who stalked me from Facebook all the way to skid row rushed me. She hugged me and said I was her father. My fiancé asked if it was true. As to not hurt the young lady’s feelings, and keep my “fiancé” from thinking I was cheating I said “Si”. I told her to give me a moment with my 32 year old child. She did.
The young woman grabbed my hand and wanted to tell me about her life and all of the things I missed out on. I did not mind being a surrogate father to her so she could release her demons. So I listened to this young beautiful Black woman, who had simply been thrown away into homelessness with scars and all. She reeked of urine, but I held my nose and listened until she got it all out. She hugged me again and Thanked me for listening. I started to walk away again, but my emotions got the best of me. I turned to her and said “Young lady. Skid Row is no place for any woman. Please find a way to get the hell out of here. Please.”
I turned and locked arms with my fiancé who wanted me to take her to the Union Rescue Mission. We walked through clouds of spice smoke and large tents to get to there. Upon entering the mission with her, my eyes became fixed on the doors of the chapel. I now needed to pray alone so badly, but my fiancé would not let me go. So I decided to take her in with me.
As I entered, a devotional was already in progress. Staff workers were having a praise and worship service. They were singing of how mighty God was and how he could not fail. The human in me wanted to question it after what I just saw. But my spirit was drawn to it like a flame. I walked in, grabbed a seat with my fiancé and listened to the singing and praise. I began to soften a bit and soon, I was singing under my breath of the greatness of our God.
As one of the staff members prayed, my fiancé laid her hands on my shoulder and prayed for me as well. As adorably crazy as she was, she knew what I needed. I went from standing, to sitting in reflection of how tired I was of fighting the good fight. I looked at the strength of caring staff members who praised God and gained strength through it.
These incredible people who help hundreds of people with no badge, no gun, minimal authority and a shoestring budget, were grateful for being used by our Lord in spite of the monumental challenges they face in helping those in need. I became inspired by them again, I offered my prayer of encouragement for them and was ready to walk the Streets of Skid Row again.
My fiancé walked me all the way back to my station. I walked in with my head lifted.
The good Lord knew I needed to make a connection with him. Sometimes he sends the most interesting people to lead you there.
To my 70 year old fiancé. I thank you.