Los Angeles, USA

People Helping People in Los Angeles

Photography by Tony Dočekal
02-12-2021
Est. 7 minutes

It has been great meeting some of our incredible distribution partners in Los Angeles these past weeks!

To distribute 530 Shelterbags among the people most in need, we partnered with multiple LA-based organizations: Salvation Army, LavaMae, Project Ropa, Skidrow Community Refresh Spot, St Francis Center, and Restoration Community Development Corporation located at Mt. Tabor. Thank you all for the warm welcome.

At least 63,706 people are currently unhoused in Los Angeles County. The COVID-19 pandemic has only brought more challenges, with housing affordability and decreased capacity in shelters further contributing to encampments throughout the city.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made homelessness far more prominent and visible. At the onset of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that people living outdoors should be sheltered in one place because forcing them to relocate could lead to disease spread. They also advised shelters to decrease their capacity by 50% to ensure social distancing among residents. This resulted in massive street encampments that have spread from Skid Row to almost all parts of Los Angeles.

Hani and Bas at the Project Ropa service at Echo Park, L.A.

Serving Hope on Hope Street

Chelsea, Resource Navigator at St. Francis Centre: “We’re located in Downtown L.A. area, near Skid Row. We have a lot of unhoused guests in this area. Everywhere you turn, you’ll see either a tent or someone sleeping on the street. It’s very highly populated with people who are unhoused and need assistance. So for us, it’s a perfect place to be, because they can come in and get the help that they need.

Life on the street can be pretty difficult in L.A. You really need a car to live here. Resources are far away. If you’re on foot, it can be hard to get food or assistance. If you’re unhoused, you’re constantly going around, trying to find your next meal, trying to find a safe area to sleep. Waitlists can be over 100 people, just to get into a night shelter. There’s a lot of services, but not enough beds, not enough of anything.

I think the Shelterbag does help. As I said, shelters are limited. And also a lot of unhoused individuals have bad history at shelters. You’re in a room with people you don’t know. They may feel unsafe. Or they have a history of trauma, where they might not feel comfortable being around a bunch of strangers. So having that Shelterbag to be able to be warm on the street is so helpful. Because we don’t have a lot of resources, but even that one resource can make the difference between I slept ok last night, and I can make it to the next day.”

“The Shelterbag can mean the difference between I slept ok last night, and I can make it to the next day.”

Chelsea, Resource Navigator at St. Francis Center

These 530 Shelterbags were made in our social factory in Cape Town, but we’re working towards our goal of setting up a local production facility in the US so we can start a workforce development program and provide jobs for people experiencing homelessness locally.

With a deep-rooted textile industry and her disproportionally large unhoused population, Los Angeles seems like the perfect place to found Sheltersuits’ first production and distribution hub in the US.

The Salvation Army at The ReFresh Spot

We joined The Salvation Army LA Metro and South California at their service at The ReFresh Spot at Skid Row. The Refresh Spot is a community-driven project run by HHCLA (homeless healthcare) that provides Skid Row residents access to restrooms, showers, laundry, and phone charging with supportive services. It is a public facility, open 7 days a week, to anyone in the community with no discrimination for entry, and offers a place for people to have their basic needs met with dignity.

Danielle has been Recovery Case Manager at Salvation Army for 6 years.

“I’m out here because I get it. I can’t find judgment in my heart for people that end up this way, because it starts out innocent enough. It can happen to anyone, and who knows who that will be in your friend group.”

At The ReFresh Spot, Skid Row

Cleveland

Restoration Community Development Corporation

Restoration Community Development Corporation, located at Mt. Tabor, is a faith-based grassroots organization providing a multitude of services in the South Los Angeles area. Every Wednesday, rain or shine. Bernice, Outreach Coordinator, distributed the Shelterbags via multiple organizations: Hopics, LAHSA, AADAP, LACDMH, REBA STEVENS, Community Reflections, and Janice Martin.

“I got the Shelterbags to organizations that work with the unsheltered on a daily basis because they already have relationships with people in need. I wanted to make sure that the people that are boots on the ground got Shelterbags first. Because I know that they are dealing with people who are chronically homeless and have to survive the elements. 

This is ground zero for homelessness. When you look at what America has been going through, I think we have to be very careful now. People are on the edge. The cost of living is ridiculous. There is some serious disconnect. Every day 207 people get housed. But every day, 270 people get homeless.” – Bernice, Restoration Community Development Corporation

“This is ground zero for homelessness.”

– Bernice, Restoration Community Development Corporation

Meet Albertine, our new Managing Director of Sheltersuit USA! 

“When I moved to NYC from The Netherlands almost 2 years ago, I knew that there were many unsheltered people in the US, but to witness such every day is confronting. When I heard that Sheltersuit was working on getting its boots on the ground in the US and the opportunity arose to work with them, I decided to go for it. 

Sheltersuit is doing amazing things, its products are unique, sustainable, high-end, and so much needed by many. They value people experiencing homelessness at their best and continuously look for opportunities to help out. I find it really exciting and challenging to work with them.”

Welcome to the team Albertine.

Project Ropa

Project Ropa is a free mobile hygiene service that brings clean clothing, hygiene kits, hand sanitizer, face masks, food, and water directly to people experiencing homelessness in the Greater Los Angeles area. We had the pleasure to join two of their services, one in Echo Park and one in Boyle Heights together with LavaMae. Always a pleasure to meet like-minded people committed to helping their community. Keep up the good work and we hope to join you again soon!

“The recent partnership between Project Ropa and the Sheltersuit Foundation has allowed us to gift a sound sleep to the unsheltered in LA. We have given away roughly 30 Shelterbags in the weeks since meeting Bas, and everyone that has received one is beyond thankful. At Project Ropa we offer the unsheltered common essentials that most people take for granted, clothing, hygiene, and dignity. We hope to empower the unsheltered to regain the will to survive and get ahead with the help of basic necessities. 

The Shelterbags are usually the most prized possession they own. The streets take a toll on their bodies, and now we can help provide them with a good night’s rest and a bit of safety from the elements. We hope the Shelterbags and the sleep helps them think positively about how to attain the next step in their recovery. The adequate rest and sleep are thanks to the Sheltersuit Foundation’s concern for our community.” – Alex, Mobile Service Coordinator at Project Ropa

NOS Stories

‘The bags have been life saving for many.’

– Alex, Projet Ropa

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