Due to the pandemic, our annual Skid Row Carnival of Love was unable to continue. In addition, our Be Love Give Love Program, which was happening in the park to provide food directly to our unhoused neighbors, became too hard to control due to the number of people needing food while also following COVID guidelines. Soon, the need was more extensive than ever, but it was not safe to distribute services the same way.
Facing obstacles of a challenging economy, a worldwide pandemic, and a safe location to serve our unhoused neighbors, we turned to our wider community for help.
We have always had vital volunteers, with many flying to California each year to help with the carnival. However, now we needed regular volunteers to help every week. The response was awe-inspiring. Fifteen volunteer committees representing a broad spectrum of our community arose and began helping with recruitment, food distribution, communications efforts, etc. Soon we had more than 100 regular volunteers.
In addition, partner agencies embraced us with enthusiasm. They invited us to bring delicious food to their resume-building workshops, drug education sessions, vaccine pop-up events, Juneteenth celebrations, STI testing, etc. Our ability to enhance their events with healthy food was a win/win. We could provide services in a more controlled environment due to the pandemic, and dignified food made their events more attractive to attend. Many of the individuals present said this was their first “real meal” in a long time.
Due to systemic racism, an alarming number of black people represent the homeless population (4 times more than represented in LA County’s population). The food we provide is restaurant-quality food purchased mostly from black-owned small businesses owned by women. This particular business sector was hit the hardest during COVID. In fact, according to a recent analysis, 40% of small black-owned businesses closed by the end of April 2020.
Since January of this year, we have collaborated with more than 20 organizations to serve three times more members of our community than any other year. We have distributed 10,000 healthy vegetarian meals served in compostable containers thanks to a grant from Chris Pan & MyIntent. Plus, thanks to a generous gift from Business for Good and so many other incredible partners, we have been able to distribute thousands of masks, hygiene kits, and hand sanitizers. We also provided diapers, backpacks, shoes, drinks, family meals, 300 Art of Shaving Kits, and so much more.