Fourth anniversary of the Safer Cities Initiative sparks protest

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The 2006 initiative added 50 extra officers to Skid Row, a presence some residents resent.

Only a few days left to save Hope Gardens homeless shelter

Union Rescue Mission’s Hope Gardens has offered shelter to many homeless women and children in Los Angeles. Now, experiencing a financial drought, Hope Gardens is on the brink of closure. CEO Rev. Andy Bales says that they are still in need of $1,035,577 before June 30th. The closure of the Sylmar shelter would no doubt put extra stress on L.A.‘s already strained facilities.

Fundraising efforts have been alarmingly successful in a short span of time, with URM raising $1 million in the past two weeks. The total now stands at $1.7 million of a $2.8 million goal.

“Time is of the essence and we need everyone’s help to keep women and children from returning to the mean streets of Skid Row,” wrote Bales in his latest news update.

Here’s what the CEO had to say about the three ways people can help:

1)  Donate.  Every gift we receive by June 30th will be matched up to $500,000.

2)  Text “URM” at 85944 to donate $10.  Please reply “yes” when prompted.

3)  Invite your friends to become our Facebook fan.  We will receive $1 for every new fan up to $25,000.

4)  Spread the news.  Share our story on your blog, re-post our blog, or re-tweet our Twitter messages.

If everyone does just one thing, it will make the difference.  Thank you for stepping up to meet the need.

URM also produces a series of mini documentaries about the people who have successfully transitioned out of homelessness through the shelter. Watch Serwa’s story from Hope Gardens:


Winter shelters close, forcing hundreds of homeless back to the streets

The entrance hallway at the Union Rescue Mission on San Pedro Street in Skid Row is filled with noise and people. Some are signing in, securing a bed for the night. Others are hoping for more long-term help. There are children. There are suitcases. There are rooms full of people waiting, staring at the walls and rarely speaking to one another. Behind one set of doors, light streams through a window shaped like a cross. The chapel is empty, save for a man practicing at the piano.

At Union Rescue Mission, both hope and despair is housed in one building.

Up on the roof, CEO Rev. Andy Bales is dousing the barbecue with a full bottle of lighter fluid. He puts a match to the charcoal and everyone takes a few steps back as the flames roar to life. Bales is well known for his tendency to start fires — literally, and metaphorically.

Tonight, guests will share one last meal before the winter officially comes to an end. The winter shelters will no longer remain open after today. Vying for beds will be harder when there is 1,600 fewer of them. The Union Rescue Mission appealed to the state and local government for an extension, but received no reply.

According to Bales, more families experiencing homelessness for the first time have been showing up at the mission since the Recession. Foreclosures and evictions are sending people straight from normality into Skid Row within the space of a few hours. The winter shelters have seen an increased number of homeless people seeking shelter since last year, with a 74 percent rise reported at the Glendale facility.

Around 1,600 people, said Bales, will return to the streets in March.

Listen to Rev. Andy Bale:

More from the Union Rescue Mission: An average day at a winter shelter: