LOS ANGELES — The closing of Echo Park Lake and clearing of the encampment have put SoCal's continuing homelessness crisis back in the spotlight. The city of Los Angeles saw a 16% increase in those experiencing homelessness from 2019 to 2020, according to the L.A. Homeless Services Authority, with the pandemic only exacerbating the issue.
Sharing Love with Others is a local organization giving clothes, food, and hygiene products to the community living on Skid Row. They have not missed a single Saturday, even a year into the pandemic.
Janice Johnson, who has been living on Skid Row for four years, takes advantage of the free options offered.
"This is where I get all my stuff at. I do my shopping right here," Johnson said.
She calls herself "The No. 1 Skid Row Dancer." She's joyful and grateful, appreciating the kindness.
"Don't be ashamed. Don't be bashful. If you are in need of something, hey, it's right here on the table. All you have to do is go in line and get it. It's free," Johnson said.
We have seen this need grow during the pandemic due to job loss and many Angelenos's inability to pay rent. According to Economic Report, pandemic-related unemployment will start a cycle of homelessness that will triple and peak by 2023. Johnson has seen more tents and people moving permanently to the area but welcomes them with open arms because she knows the struggle.
"I have to do my thing and love them and take care of the people down here while I'm here," Johnson said.
Founder of Sharing Love with Others, Maxine Sealey, noticed an increase in need during her weekly Saturday outreach. She initially was giving away around 200 free meals.
"With the pandemic, now we are serving over 400 meals. We know it's because of the pandemic. People lost their homes, lost their apartment, and they lost their income," Sealey said.
Sealey is here to help anyone who needs it because she knows first-hand how important it is. In the early 2000s, she was going through financial troubles and received assistance. Once she got on her feet, she began volunteering and created Sharing Love in 2019. They have not missed a Saturday in two years, even during the pandemic.
"That's someone's mother, someone's father, that's a human being. They need to be treated as human beings," Sealey said.
She said that you must treat everyone with compassion, no matter who you are or where you live. She wanted to go directly to those in need to have a human connection while giving food that she cooks herself, hygiene products, clothes, and other items.
"I wanted to get to know them. I wanted to know their stories. I wanted to know their name," Sealey said.
The organization can be found on Skid Row at 620 E. 7th St. Los Angeles every Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. They are always looking for volunteers or donations. For more information, head to their website.