Originally from Riverside, California, Sanjita Gowda finds herself as a first year, Neuroscience major at UCLA. She is a member of the Campaigns committee this year! The craziest thing she has ever done is go dune bashing in Dubai, which she says was “AMAZING!”.
This past weekend’s trip to Skid Row was incredibly eye opening.
Our tour guide from the St. Vincent De Paul Mission of Los Angeles truly had an amazing story to share of his triumphs and tribulations. Hearing his story of how he found himself without a home, without a family, and without hope made us all aware that these conditions were not so far fetched from being able to affect any of us. Kevin allowed us to see the power of time and circumstance as his experiences in life allow him to now greatly help the people of Skid Row in a way that not many people can. Along with his trusty canine companion Stella, he candidly allowed us to learn from the Skid Row community.
Walking through the streets of Skid Row, I actually didn’t feel unsafe, as many people had said I would. Infact, many people were friendly and asked us how we were doing. Kevin shared with us that simply smiling at the individuals or exchanging a mere “hello” could be enough to make the individual feel human – a feeling that he and many others had lost whilst homeless.
I was surprised to learn that many individuals, in fact, chose to live in the housing of Skid Row and said they felt safer there than they did in other parts of L.A. This was because the streets were most often quiet at night since many people would have to wake up early to build their tents, which were their homes. The sense of community was certainly strong among the people of Skid Row, as is probably necessary when living in such difficult conditions. A culture that arose from these tribulations was apparent in the art and sustainability efforts of this community.
There were also a great amount of resources available for the people of Skid Row, more than I had ever expected. However we did learn that for individuals without mental health and physical health issues, but still requiring aid to jumpstart their lives, these resources were scarce due to lack of funding. An interesting aspect of Skid Row that stood out to me was that most institutes offering services such as free meals were faith based organizations that offered meals in exchange for participating in religious sermons. Kevin, among countless others who have struggled in their lives, refound himself by rediscovering his faith so I do see the validity in these efforts. However, Kevin shared with us that many of these centers were unpopular because of this participatory requirement so maybe a more effective method should be sought of suggesting faith to these individuals as a part of an avenue of recovery rather than using food as a means of virtually forcing them towards it.
Another aspect that really stood out to me was the distinct boundaries of Skid Row and its proximity to areas of such stark contrast. Within a five-minute walk from the heart of Skid Row, a film crew, clad in suits and heels, was set up filming a commercial. Neighboring the filming location was an ice cream shop selling a single scoop of ice cream for five dollars. Experiencing this sudden change in environment was definitely interesting.
Following our tour, many of us were left pondering the thought of, “Where do we go from here? What do we do with this knowledge in order to make a change?” We concluded that having witnessed these circumstances and having learned about the pros and cons of the resources of Skid Row, we were better equipped in potentially making political decisions. More generally, we were able to extend our scope of the hardships that individuals face, beyond the bubble of security and safety that often stops us from exploring these perspectives.
I’m incredibly thankful for having the opportunity to this exposure through GlobeMed. In the short time that I have been in this organization, I have learned a great deal about various issues affecting global health and am excited to continue learning alongside this diverse and active community of students!