What is Faith?

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Skid Marks

In the wee hours of the morning, I sit here in the local Mickey D's, a homeless man walks in and begins to eat the dregs of another’s' breakfast, directly out of the trash. Two other homeless men are waiting to use the single lavatory. Three more are sitting outside hoping for a crumb or two to be sent their way.

A far cry from the Weingart Center just a few blocks away. If you choose to walk through the doors of the Weingart Center, you are choosing a future. A future without rummaging through trash; A future without despair; A future where you no longer have to beg for crumbs of humanity. Dignity, respect and esteem are offered freely from the moment you enter the sanctity of the Weingart Center.

The Weingart Center is at the epicenter of skid row. They are at ground zero, the heart of city where more than 48,000 homeless people can be found wandering the streets on any given night. They are also the heart of firsts.

The Weingart Center Association transforms lives by providing high-quality human services to homeless men and women, giving them hope and an opportunity to lead productive lives off the streets. The Weingart Center is a pioneering force in developing programs and innovative solutions to help break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. The Weingart Center helps individuals address the daily personal challenges they face by giving them the basic skills necessary to stabilize their lives, secure income and find permanent housing. Located in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles, the Weingart Center is one of the largest human and social service agencies serving the homeless population on the west coast.

Beginning with the big man on campus, CEO Gregory Scott, who is no stranger to poverty himself, “It starts with me" is their motto that is lived up to in every respect. Staff members set the example by voluntarily giving back financially to the organization, with 'more' in mind. By giving back, they become an integral part of feeding more people, housing more people, employing more people, and offering more services to the people.

The staff at the Weingart Center do not see you as indigent, or as a drug addict, or alcoholic. They do not see African American, Caucasian, Latino, and Asian. They do not see Christian, Jewish, or Buddhist. They see a man. They see a woman. They see a person. They see a whole person and as such, they determine what can be done to treat the whole person. They get to the heart of the matter starting with one on one case management, and continuing to work with you towards a life you deserve.

The levels of services offered are very advanced. Once an 11 story hotel, the rooms have been converted into mostly private residences, rooms one can call his or her own. Meals are served at the Weingart Cafe where Weingart Center residents partake of delicious healthy breakfasts and dinners and are offered a bag lunch to go.
Residents are also offered an array of benefits such as:

• Detox/Substance abuse treatment
• Permanent supportive housing
• Short term housing
• Workforce development and education
• Employment assistance
• Vocational training
• Medical and mental health care
• HIV and AIDS programs

Non-resident homeless are able to reap the benefits of the Weingart Center assistance as well. Here are just a few of the many service offered:

• Information and referral services
• Bus tokens for transportation to and from appointments
• HIV and STD testing
• Mail Services
• Community voice mail

The Weingart Center also partnered with the JWCH Institute and the LA County Department of Health Services, to put forward a model of comprehensive health care. The state of the art 22,000 square foot building, offers a team of professional doctors, psychiatrists, chemical behavior specialists, and pharmacy services as well as dental care, optometry, and a full laboratory. They are proud to offer a health care similar to private insurance. Every patient that walks through the door has one doctor assigned to him or her. They don’t walk in and see a different doctor each time they come. They walk in and see their doctor.

Through a partnership with AmeriCorps, formerly homeless men and women can provide the homeless of skid row specialized services such as clinical information, program and services referrals and the distribution of hygiene kits.

We had the dubious honor of being invited to stay the night at the Weingart Center. I was pleasantly surprised at the camaraderie within this towering refuge. I cannot say what I was expecting, but what I experienced knocked my socks off. The staff was warm, and friendly, and treated everyone with the same respect, and dignity with which they treated us.

We had our own rooms as do most of the residents here. They are small but when you come from the streets, a room to yourself feels like the presidential suite. The showers were spacious, bathrooms freshly cleaned, and floors sparkled with the reflecting lights above. There was even a recuperative care, hospital like division complete with attending medical specialists.

Services offered by the Weingart Center are too numerous to mention all of them, but I will leave you with this, this may be skid row, in the heart of Los Angeles, but the Weingart Center has certainly left their mark on the men and women who reside there, the city of Los Angeles, and on this Oregonian journalists heart.

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