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In a world where everyone needs somebody some time, Los Angeles Mission is setting the precedent for loving thy neighbor.

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“Providing help, hope and the opportunity to men, women and children in need” is the mission of an organization with the goal to change the world. The Los Angeles Mission, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1936 under the fundamentals to serve the needs of homeless and disadvantaged men, women and children. Those needs include spiritual, physical, educational, vocational, and housing. The Los Angeles Mission President and CEO Herb Smith shares, “the Los Angeles Mission's founding inspiration was alleviating social need.  We look at the Bible command by Jesus. He challenged us to feed, clothe, house the poor, the sick, widows and orphans, and to visit those in prison.  This is how we attempt to show our love and concern for others as a community”. Starting as a small rescue mission, the Los Angeles Mission has since grown to be among the nation’s largest service providers to the homeless, also working to build and maintain community stability.

The Los Angeles Mission offers many emergency services, which include meals, shelter and clothing. The bulk of their operation is their 13-month extensive rehabilitation programs. These programs are designed to allow men and women experience a challenging and thorough program to help them solve the problems that resulted in their homelessness or addiction, providing an additional year of supportive housing for the graduates so they can continue career path training and begin working. Smith expresses,

“There are no ‘homeless people’ just people experiencing homelessness in their life journey. They should not be labeled, discriminated against or marginalized due to housing status … or the many underlying causes of the homeless experience”.

Seeing others in a different perspective is crucial to helping them see themselves for their value and worth and helping them pick up the pieces and putting them together. This serves as the key to inspiration. Smith adds, “The Los Angeles Mission is a Christian ministry.  So, from our faith-based perspective we look at all individuals as created by God, and worthy of value.  We look for opportunities for improvement and growth in everyone, ourselves included.  That is the love factor.  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ helps us celebrate differences as healthy diversity. And it helps us guide and counsel others in love, when their lifestyles are destructive to themselves or others physically, spiritual or economically. We come from an eternal significance perspective.  That means we encourage people.  We want individuals to not only examine their own lives but to look for the best in themselves and others.” The Los Angeles Mission focuses on an “open arms” approach when helping those in need and change lives.

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While caring for the less fortunate is full of rewards, there are some setbacks that arise. When discussing struggles and fears, Smith opens up and says, “the major struggle the Los Angeles Mission faces is determining the best methods to help the men and women who come to us for help in changing their lives from homelessness in a cost effective manner without diminishing the quality of the services we offer. Our fears include the decline of funding at all levels for services.  Not just donations to the Los Angeles Mission, which is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, but also to other service providers and government funded programs.  Recently there has been a governmental emphasis on housing of chronically homeless while ignoring those who are not chronically homeless.  This means those who may be displaced because of job loss, divorce, medical expenses or other reasons may be denied services because funding is going to the chronically homeless programs.

But with true determination Smith refuses to allow the negatives deter his organization’s mission. He shared his views on humanity by saying “I believe people are universally optimistic and seek validation and significance outside of themselves.  That's why we engage in philanthropy.”

And one of the greatest examples of what the Los Angeles Mission, and philanthropy, can do is the moving story of the LA Mission’s Assistant Food Service Director, David Thomas.

“When David came to the Mission he was homeless, dyslexic, and couldn’t read.  He went through our program, and with the one-on-one assistance of a dedicated volunteer learned to read.  He graduated, received his GED, and then went to Los Angeles Trade Tech, to become a chef.  He returned to the Mission and worked his way up through the kitchen to the position he now holds,” Smith shared.

“But that's not all this good man did,” Smith continues, “he encouraged other members of his family who were addicted to the program.  He and his wife became the primary care givers to his sister's children while she was in program. David and the kitchen staff are responsible for providing an average of 1,800 meals per day to the homeless on Skid Row.  He says he does it because a good meal can be the starting point for someone who wants to get off the streets and restore their lives – like he did.”

David Thomas and his family are a shining example of what can be accomplished through hard work, support, love and the people of the LA Mission.

The plans for the future of the Los Angeles Mission are, “to move forward with continued emergency service delivery but with more use of technology, community coordination and ‘distributed service delivery.’ We envision a ‘Mission Without Walls’ approach to our community's needs – in a distributed geographic and culturally relevant method.”

Volunteer or Donate if you would like to be part of the force that is changing the lives of those who are hurting, addicted, lost or overwhelmed by circumstances. The Los Angeles Mission invites you to be part of the solutions.

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