LA: The Heartbreaking City of Angels

Hello from LA! And hello to my new blog set up! I’m still working on it, but BBB needed a facelift!

But that’s right, when you read this, I will be on my way back to New York from the City of Angels. Steven and I went with his cousins to support his other cousin’s DJ event. It was so fun.

We listened to some absolutely amazing music, ate some outrageously delicious food, and explored DTLA and Little Tokyo.

I haven’t been back to LA since I was 17 years old, when I studied at a USC summer acting program, where I never really left the campus.

And let me just say, I was absolutely shocked by the current state of things in downtown LA.

There is a serious issue here: homelessness.

Driving down the streets was truly a heartbreaking experience. Row after row after row of tents, with homeless encampments literally taking over sidewalks.

Walking around, we passed more people passed out, or literally shooting up some sort of intravenous drug, or acting very strangely on a trip. It was just the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

The sidewalks reeked — absolutely reeked — of urine and human feces. Since LA never gets any rain, and unlike NYC, (where people spray the sidewalks every morning), spraying is not permitted because of the drought and water preservation. So it literally stinks to high heavens.

I mean, it made NEW YORK seem clean.

And every place we went…even a hole-in-the-wall coffee joint…had hired security. Bars gated all the windows. Crime in LA is absolutely rampant.

Honestly, I just had no idea things were this bad here. And it was heartbreaking to say the least.

Yesterday at Mass, Jesus once again showed up, in exactly the right place at the right time.

In the Gospel yesterday from Luke 14, Jesus proclaims:

“When you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

It was as though Jesus knew that I would be face to face with such devastating poverty this weekend, and had a message so timely and fitting.

Two thought went through my mind all weekend: First, that inside every single one of those tents is a child of God – a person who was created by a Father who loves them unconditionally. And secondly, where are the people that love them here on Earth? Where is their family? Their loved ones? What happened in their life that they had absolutely no one to turn to when they fell on tough times and had to resort to living on the street?

I know mental health and addiction are huge culprits that can sever relationships, but to see that played out to such extremes — where is the help?

What do we do? Truly, what would Christ do to help the homeless? Because as a young woman, it’s not safe to be poking around a homeless encampment trying to evangelize, or drop gift cards to McDonalds, or other things.

Honestly. How do we help?

This problem just stared me in the face all weekend. And it left me, quite frankly, rather discouraged and disheartened.

Shelters are helpful, but there are issues there too. Most are overcrowded, or dirty and ridden with bedbugs. People get things stolen. And they’re dangerous.

I know there are “Safe Injection Sites” where people can “safely” use drugs and have access to clean needles, but frankly, I feel like those are more enabling than anything. Advocates argue that they decrease overdose deaths, and the resource costs of ambulances and hospital visits, but I see the real goal as getting people to stop using drugs in the first place.

I love the idea of offering resources for job trainings and drop-in centers to help a person get back on their feet, but the issue at play here is that a person has to want to get help. And much like recovery, no one can want it for you.

Ugh. My heart feels heavy thinking about all of this.

What do you think? How do you think we solve this tragic issue that is riddling, not just LA, but all major cities?

To hear my story, click here.

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27 responses to “LA: The Heartbreaking City of Angels”

  1. Am I really the first one to like and comment, or is there some glitch with your new blog layout?

    I wish I had an answer. I want to say “keep telling people how bad it is, because hearing it from an unbiased outsider will make people think twice about voting for the kinds of policies that destroyed California.” But that’s not a serious answer to the question, and I really don’t know if I have one other than to try to reach out in ways we can to people we can reach.

    I’ve never particularly liked Los Angeles (although I think that has more to do with my feelings about the Dodgers and the Lakers more so than the city itself), but I know that’s no excuse to turn a blind eye to this. I tend to think that the answer is not to abandon California altogether, as so many have in the last few years.

  2. We will always have the poor, but I believe that recognizing the dignity of all people and taking the actions we can as individuals does much more then we realize. Support the ministries that service the poor and homeless-give of your time, treasure and talent. Even serving at a center for an hour a month makes a difference. Making small ziplock bag kits with a pair of socks, crackers, tuna, an apple sauce pouch and water to pass out makes a difference. And making eye contact and saying your name and asking their name as you hand it to them makes a difference. We may not be able to change the world, but we can change our hearts and our small actions do matter.

  3. Like you said, they have to want to do it. Those in the mess and those in a position to actually do some good. But both are only looking to themselves. Christ is the answer, but they have to turn to Him. Something else to pray for.
    Like the new digs! You inspire me to work on mine. I think my biggest problem, other than getting back into the routine of writing regularly, is learning what I can actually do with the site. Have a great week! 🤗🙏💛

  4. I was there two weekends ago for a KWA (Christian Screenwriters Association) meeting at the Presbyterian Church. Same thing. It was my first meeting, as it’s a new group and I missed the first meeting, learning about it too late. I was a bit anxious about leaving my vehicle alone, but at the meeting a well known film director/producer opened our meeting with prayer. I learned he heads an evangelical outreach program for those in the area. I was told, they know to behave or they will not receive help, so my car was safe.
    Everywhere I go there in LA and in San Diego there are so many homeless. Here, in our area and also there, various Christian outreach programs are available, but they can only focus on those willing to help themselves. Our climate brings them here.

  5. The whole of California has taken giant steps backwards after the 1950’s from what I’ve been able to glean from observation, news sources and reports from friends there.

  6. Speaking from experience, people with drug problems are self-medicating to ease their mental pains. My younger sister was a heavy user of meth and other drugs. I and my parents would try to help her, but she’d just disappear after she got what she needed/wanted. Sometimes for years. She finally showed up once more not long before our mom died, clean & sober. She got her share of the estate – and I was very generous to her on that account!! I offered to help her manage it, which I did for a short time until she asked for the whole thing without offering any explanation. She got swindled out of it, but I was still open to her. Despite my not condemning her for wasting her inheritance, she disappeared again. I never saw or heard from her again until I found out she was in the hospital and not likely to survive her heart condition. She died a day later.

    We can try to help, We should always try. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

  7. My daughter is a clinical social worker for the VA and specifically works with the homeless Veteran population. Unfortunately, these Veterans account for a majority of our homeless on the streets. She has educated me on the reason for many. We send our men and women to fight wars – meaning they are required to see and do things their souls cannot comprehend, yet they must do them. Then we expect them to come back home and be part of polite society, which for most people is impossible, at least for a while. They reach out for help and are put on medication that makes them feel strange or jittery or not themselves. They don’t want to feel like that either. Things snowball and they can’t function in normal life scenarios. They seek help from the VA. The VA puts them on meds. They can’t handle it and can’t get benefits without accepting the meds. They end up on the street because they can’t hold a job and lose their housing. Now they are homeless. We have created this problem ourselves. When we stop being such a self-centered society, and care about our fellow man more, and start taking care of our own people, even when it’s hard or means self-sacrifice, then we will begin to realize answers to our homeless problem. We must begin to care about our people enough to get in the trenches with them. To see things from their point of view, and to offer help on terms we can both accept. In other words, to start with, we must find and plant Jesus’s real, compassionate love for every human into our hearts, and extend it to every person we interact with every single day. We must love our neighbor as ourselves, actively.

  8. I lived in L.A.’s South Beach area for two years in the late 70s. The best thing by far was proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The worst was its traffic, smog and prevalence of cocaine use by the populace in general. But it was never dirty, smelly, crime infested, or crowded with homeless drug addicts as it is today. What a shame that those in power have let their beautiful city crumble into wholesale decay. I know for a fact that the church is doing all they can to minister to the poor and hopeless, but Christians are far outnumbered by demons out there and God’s wrath is upon that whole area (not to mention our entire country). May He have mercy on us all.

  9. Unfortunately, most of the homeless are homeless by choice. More than 85% have family, friends or agencies with whom they would be welcome, but they will NOT cooperate with ANY house rules; e.g., no drugs, no other “friends” staying overnight, accounting for whereabouts, participating in family activities (no expectation of money).
    Of course, recognizing this (as recognizing Jesus’ warning that we would always have poor people) does not excuse Christ-followers from turning away from our responsibility to be salt and light in a tasteless and darkening world. “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” (Luke 12:48)
    Sadly, the homelessness is exasperated by Sacramento’s policies and mentality. A recent meme I saw here in Lex was “Don’t Californicate My Kentucky!” However, while government could do better, Christ-followers have never waited for the right politician or law to be elected or passed to do what Jesus did! Most of history is littered with His followers striving against ungodliness in high places, even within churches.
    “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
    Most sad is that the USA is rapidly becoming a third world country. However, this is a portent of the end of history as we have known it for 6000 years and the beginning of a new age. “Always darkest before the Dawn.” Maranatha, even so, Lord Jesus, come.
    ❤️& 🙏, c.a.

    • Hate to burst your bubble, but the incarceration rate in Kentucky is 930 per 100,000 people, whereas the incarceration rate in California is 549 per 100,000 people. Sounds like you just like to lock up the “undesirables.” Most sad that Kentucky incarcerates more people than a third world country. I’m sure this is a statistic you would like to overlook. “Always darkest before the Dawn, but darkness lingers over Kentucky when it comes to civil rights.”

      • Nah, we just arrest people who break the law, unlike California where the AGs just let them go, even when the POleese (🤠) arrest them, which many won’t do anymore because of lax incarceration. To get civil rights one should be civil. 😉

    • Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

  10. Homelessness is something that has always touched my heart. Even though I am well-acquainted with mentally ill and drug addicted people and how very difficult they are to deal with because they LIE CONSTANTLY, backslide, and generally just need someone to take care of them because they are a mess. Addiction is so hard to treat. However there are also many people in California and other states that simply cannot afford housing. Lack of affordable housing is a real issue that is being ignored by our government. I’ve been wanting to ask you what was the ONE THING that finally started the healing process for your ED? What was the turning point? ED is a mental illness, so I am wondering what changed for you. I’m trying to help someone who has OCD which includes body dysmorphic disorder. Thanks for any suggestions. <3

  11. I don’t know the answer Caralyn. I agree that by enabling them, they’re not helping them get clean. I feel like overmedicating people who struggle with mental illness is a huge issue. Doctors prescribe too much to young adults. Giving it away like candy. That can lead to unstable conditions and addiction.

    They then experiment with harder drugs. That’s not helping. But hurting these people.

    The policies in place also contribute to homelessness. You’ve seen strung out people in NYC because it’s gotten worse. They don’t have enough avenues to Healthcare facilities that can help rehabilitate addicts.

    Instead, they overspend on things we don’t need. Like bike lanes which teach bikers that they have the right of way even on tight streets which makes it harder on drivers. Or charging out of town visitors congestive pricing, which comes out of their pockets.

    They aren’t addressing the real problems. Same goes for the regressive policies that let violent criminals back out to do god knows what. Now, double and triple that and you have LA.

  12. Yes, it’s very sad. I was born and, mostly, raised in Southern California. I have watched the downturn of society play out before my eyes. And, my wife, daughter and myself have been there. A couple of times. But, with Jesus’ help, we got out. My heart breaks for those suffering. Even in the small NorCal town we live in now (Folsom) it’s getting bad. Rent is reaching New York proportions and we don’t have rent control or subletting laws. Our church does what we can, through various outlets, but it’s never enough. All I can say is that Jesus will solve the problem when He returns.
    Chin up and thanks for the great blogs.

  13. It’s overwhelming. And it’s everywhere. It’s monstrous sized in Cali but even our dreamy little town has quite a problem and it’s the same. I am seriously stumped by it. But, feel like I am failing to have the Lord’s heart. Over the ENTIRE county, they stand at every entrance and intersection with their signs. At times you see the ‘fake ones’ arriving, but it’s impossible to know what actually can help and who wants actual help and not money for the nearest liquor store. This camping out and human waste, it’s not right. They are taking over cities. How do we restore order and help them want to live a different kind of life?

  14. Thank you for writing this. I have no solution. But I suspect that our focus should be on one person at a time, just as in sharing the Good News of Jesus. Otherwise we get lost in the magnitude of the sadness and degredation. One person making a difference in one other person’s life. Sounds weak and miniscule in view of the size of the problem, but I don’t think legislation or big programs can answer the issue.

  15. I just watched a Netflix (To Be of Service) on prescribing service dogs for veterans with PTSD, amazing how great the transformation. I believe prayer is the place to start (with an awareness re: where our nation is). Discipleship of believers who have mistakenly made performance the benchmark of faith (Becoming What God Intended- Head 2Heart series). Thanks for sharing your insights.

  16. I think Christian mission is important – and caring about identity. (To recognise others as members of the King, and to support others to become members of the King.)

    And so prayer for churches, educators, police…

  17. Our family lives north of LA. We see more homeless now than we’ve ever seen. But not as bad as LA. The closer one drives to the city, the worse it gets.
    Christians here pray, sometimes help but most of all go about life as normal.

  18. LA is not the only city with this problem. We have a segment of the population in my community that either will not find recovery means, or if they do, (such as drug court, a rehabilitation program), they then cannot find life sustaining work or affordable housing. One agency has finally secured funding for a halfway house, but it will only have 8 bedrooms. This might fit about 12 people at a time. What does this do for everyone else? They end up sleeping in alleys, abandoned houses, or crashing at “friends” houses where they might be re-introduced to drugs. I don’t have an answer for this massive problem, but the best is to pray, look upon the people as individuals, and be a light in a dark world. I really admire your broken heart over this issue, and some would see the unhoused as dirty, shameful, and an embarrassment. Seeing them as children of God, actually helps. Sometimes that is exactly what they need.

  19. People are broken, they need help being put back together. Sadly that is the thing we have the most struggle with trying to figure out how to fix, that brokenness. I agree with you about the enabling part, seems this is how most organization try to fix things but that’s not the glue we need. To fix this you have to go way back to the beginning and start somewhere there. But to do that, you will have a huge battle to go through, as this has evil and powerful things behind it. Greed, misery, hopelessness, all come from one place…the evil one loves misery and chaos. We can start with prayer, there is much power in prayer. We can also start with our newest generations, our children, raising and bringing them up with kindness, wisdom and love…that’s the glue that keeps them from becoming broken themselves. We can start by giving the broken ones a life they love. Talking, teaching, uniting and being part of a family like setting, knowing what it feels like to be cared about, they need that. They need to know that they are God’s children too. The influences they are under whisper in their ears, telling them that they don’t matter. Whispers that fill their hearts with nothingness, and it the place where love should rest, where God would be able to speak to them freely, it only has darkness and hopelessness, which prevents God from reaching them…in the end, that’s what evil wants. Protect the future of our children, see all our neighbors as we would like them to see us, love them, and pray harder then you ever had before. This is truly a spiritual battle we are in. God bless you and keep you and yours safe always. You are one of the kind ones. Empathy is one of the greatest gifts God gives us, treasure that in you and guard it.

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