how to really help the homeless

Got to visit the Los Angeles Mission today, downtown right in the heart of “skid row.” This was undoubtedly a sobering experience, and I think it’s the kind of place I need to go more often to keep myself sober and generous towards others in obvious need.

As one of several social-services providers, I learned how Los Angeles Mission helps a homeless person holistically — by providing food and shelter to those who’d consider going through their restoration program, and by walking along side of each person for a year to equip them with work & life skills plus a spiritual foundation. I was particularly impressed by the quality of their approach to intentionally rehabilitate the desparate lives of so many.

I think Los Angeles Mission has so many great stories to share about what they’re doing, lives that’ve been changed, and how their staff and volunteers is giving hope and healing to so many every year. One way they do that is provide computer training in this amazing computer lab, designed by the likes of a NASA mission control room. I shot this video clip to show you how a well-designed facility can inspire good work :

Through the generosity of donors, Los Angeles Mission has been able to provide more than a soup kitchen or doromitories, though they do that. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to meet good people today who are doing meaningful work and treating people with dignity and care. And, they’ve also got this practical video, 5 Ways to Help the Homeless. Watch the video for what you should do when you see a panhandler who is asking for money. You can do something. But, don’t give cash.

[update] Homeless advocate Mark Horvath (of has alerted me that the aforementioned video is offensive, so I’ve removed link to video. This opens the pressing question — how do you really help the homeless?

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14 Responses

  1. Mark Horvath says:

    the video ‘5 Ways To Help The Homeless’ is offensive

    clearly the person in the beginning is an actor. a bad one at that!

    LA Mission is only one of many doing great work at ‘ground zero’ of homelessness. sure wish their marketing firm Russ Reid would get with the times. the video is not only offensive, it’s a typical nonprofit video from 10 years ago.

    you didn’t state why you were on skid row. seems kind of out of the norm. next time give a yell so we can connect


  2. djchuang says:

    @Mark, thanks for your comment. I was not aware of the offensiveness of this video, my sincere apologies. I’m removing the video from here.

    What would be a genuinely helpful way to really help the homeless, when we see a panhandler?

    I was visiting Los Angeles Mission because I have a good friend who works there, and I’ve finally been able to get there for a visit.

  3. Dan Portnoy says:

    DJ, I’m down on skid row several times a month, if you do make it down to meet up with Mark, count me in! Plus you’ve got to see the view of LA from the roof at it’s the best I’ve ever seen.

  4. Mar Horvath says:


    you didn’t have to remove it. that was ‘just’ my opinion. having an actor play the part of a homeless man and badly pretending to have one arm is bad in so many ways. the interviews seem staged. i do this daily and do not hear people say what those people are saying.

    this is a much longer conversation than here. the mission’s video has some good points but it is a fundraising video from them and not an educational video for us. a mixed message if you will.

    please don’t remove it for me.

  5. JGroseth says:

    Here’s a link to a 10 step plan to end homelessness as we know it in LA which is currently home to the nations largest population of people experiencing homelessness. It doesn’t address immediate situations such as what to do if someone asks you for money but it does present long term solutions that everyone can be involved in.