I was sitting at the local Burger King in Pomona, California, when I received a call from my friend Melina. I met her in 2011 at the Armory, which is a shelter in Pomona, California.
Burger King was a regular routine for me each morning, but this particular day I was having dinner of burgers and fries because I took a time out from going to the Harris Casino. I was waiting for night to fall so I could lie down and sleep in my usual spot by Goodwill.
“Hey girl, O no you don’t have to sleep outside you are a vet and there are places for you to go.” Melina Hollered.
This was after she poked and prodded where I was staying the night. She then proceeded to jump on metro link and take two buses to rescue me from Pomona. It took her about two hours to get to me from somewhere in Los Angeles. She was coming.
I sighed and continued to sit and charge my phone waiting, and she showed up and we quickly jumped back on the bus and did a reversed trip back to Los Angeles.
We arrived downtown L.A., and she took me to Julian and 7th street. For those that do not know, this area is called Skid Row. It looked like a war zone. People were laying on the streets, which were filthy with dirt and other unmentionables. All I could smell was unwashed bodies, weed, and cigarettes. A man was pushing his wheel chair across the street and his leg was swollen and yellow with gangrene, it probably needed to amputated. I later witnessed a lady with tumors growing out of the back of her head, we were so grossed out we had to move to another seat at church. Reminded me of the movie I saw years ago where the tumors had eyes on them and were looking at you. That’s why I moved.
As we walked Melina would wave, stop and hug a few people that she knew on the street. She seemed to have good rapture with everyone she had met through her stopover in skid row. She loved to talk about getting her SSI approved and we spent many times on that topic. She dreamed about moving to Las Vegas.
“When my social security gets approved I am out of here!”
I would nod my head and let out a grunt or two letting her know I was listening. But I knew she had an uphill battle to get it approved. Seemed people that haven’t worked a day in their lived had all the time in the world to get approved. Being over educated or having a good job was negative for applying for social security. If you had foster kids, and received money to care for them was also negative, because you were limited on how much you could be paid; didn’t matter that most of the money went for the care of the kids. Who figured?
EATING TIME is like the stampede of buffalo’s, or escaped animals from the zoo..in some places. Some establishments have instigated some rules such as: handicap, women and couples first in line for serving. I rather cut my arm off than go anywhere else. What has happened in places like the Los Angeles Mission is an increase of handicap men; mostly black men that carry canes. Melina and I sat there and counted at least fifteen canes one day. That tells you the sorry state of many of our black men. Most of the skid row men are black; I would put it at around fifty percent or higher on a visual count.
It got me thinking about “the fight of the fittest” and “take what you want.” What does this mean?
Well meaning citizen would show up with food and hygiene products loaded in the back of their vehicles. Little do they know what to expect on skid row which feels like the end of time, which was the first thought I had when I walked through the filthy streets to get to my destination.
A couple of weeks go by and I adjust to living at the Volunteers of America Sheltered but learned a few things or two. Property is subject to theft, Melina and I experienced theft.
Periodically, I would come back to the VOA to take a 5 minute lay down, Melina was taking a shower, when one of the daybedders gets up and starts riffling through her bag.
“I yell hey what are doing.”
She got a weird look on her face, “Just putting something back and Melina and I are friends.”
Yeah right. She tosses the bag on the bed but leaves a jar of hair gel on the bed.
“Well, I am her friend and I don’t know you.” I’m looking straight at her.
I noticed the hair gel never made its way back into the bag.
Melina response “what the hell is she doing in my bag.”
VOA 86′d thieves, which means they are not allowed back onto the property. It took a second theft before Melina reported the first thief to management. The second thief was wearing her shorts and my shirt the next day. Melina knows her clothes even if I don’t. I have no attachment to my clothes. (Daybedders are allowed to sleep for one hour, and don’t live there)
Rats are rampant in downtown Los Angeles. Melina refused to walk on the sidewalk, because they were filthy and on certain streets she would not walk at all because she claimed she had seen big rats living on the street. It took me about two weeks to spot a rat coming out of the drains, about the size of a gerbil.
If you are ever homeless and living downtown they have many resources down here to get you off the street. I will give you some eating places to go.
St Vincent: Off Winston and 6th street: Gives out sandwiches and women can take showers here. Every now and again they will bring in something special such as McDonald’s. I also won some bus tokens in a contest they had.
Midnight Mission:Doesn’t have the best food or best atmosphere. I did not care for the crowed eating area.
Downtown Women CenterOff 5th and San Pedro: Great Food Healthy most days and geared for women only. They have lunch, breakfast and snack. My hang out, where women go to meet, get clothes, eat, and learn new things
Hippie Kitchen(Hospitality Kitchen): Off 6th and Gladys’s: Healthy also anyone can come, gives out hygiene items on certain days. Lunch starts at 9:30 am
Marla Gibbs: Yeah first Saturday of the month 5th and Towne. We were served fried chicken, beans, rice and given hygiene kit that was loaded!
Fred Jordan-Church:5th and Jordan (I think or Towne).Great food and handed out some food baskets. Women on Wed at 10:30 am.
Los Angeles Mission: Julian and 5th. Food is also good here and fresh. I have been served chicken, greens, corn on the cob. Some days like most places not the best but I recommend as an eating spot. 6:45 pm is the evening time to go.
Please note it’s not unusual for you to attend church services before they serve you a meal, so don’t be surprised. This is the custom down here on skid row. There are other places to go to eat that are free, but this is where I went that was walking distance. Most of the people down here have mental illness or drug and alcohol problems. It’s not the best area to come to but they have a host of resources to use.