The tents line the streets like scattered fall leaves. There are thousands of them — thousands of homeless men, women, and children in one of the most notorious neighborhoods in Los Angeles. This is Skid Row, the site of one of the largest homeless populations in the United States.
Approximately 2,783 people reside on these streets and bridges, according to the 2019 count by L.A. Homeless Services Authority. Nearly 3,000 people live here without homes, basic facilities or stable occupations. Unfortunately for would-be helpers, Skid Row’s history of crime has gotten it a reputation, deserved or not, as one of the most dangerous areas in the country.
Crimes in Skid Row are reported to have constituted 58.96% of all crimes in the LAPD Central Area — a number that’s put it firmly in the public consciousness as a place to stay away from. Homelessness is present in other areas as well: Los Angeles as a whole has dealt with a homelessness problem, with the homeless population only increasing in recent decades. In fact, in July 2019, there were estimated to be 59,000 homeless individuals in the county, and that number is only expected to go up, according to the L.A. Times.
Yet, that has refused to stop one club at Culver City High School. STAND, or Students That Assist Neighbors Displaced, is committed to combating homelessness in not only Skid Row, to which it goes monthly to distribute hand-made care packages, but all of Los Angeles.
How does STAND plan to tackle a problem of such a scale? By raising awareness, first and foremost: many Angelenos, and indeed many Americans as a whole, are often ignorant of the extent of the difficulties faced by the city’s homeless population. STAND combats this on a local scale by hosting weekly club meetings on Wednesdays, in which members are educated on the issues faced by the homeless.
A specific focus of the club are the hygiene-related issues confronted in particular by homeless women; many homeless women lack proper feminine hygiene products (e.g. tampons), and often have to resort to dangerous alternatives. Other general issues include lack of healthy food and drug abuse.
The club also hosts numerous fundraisers as a way of raising money and again, spreading awareness about homelessness-related issues. A yearly winter sock drive, meanwhile, provides a more practical pathway through which the club can tackle these issues, in particular that of cold — for the homeless, who often don’t have any place indoors to which they can go during the winter months, cold temperatures and rainy days often result in dire consequences for the improperly dressed.
Though it may not seem like it, a dry pair of socks goes a long way, and the sock drive has become one of STAND’s most direct contributions to the homeless community.
President Margaret Wang says she plans to expand club activities in the future, wanting to reach out to soup kitchens and churches as a way of better finding opportunities for the club to aid the homeless. Needless to say, such a development would likely be well-received by the members of STAND, and would certainly help this dedicated group of students give back to their community in a way that few others dare to.