NPR Next Generation Radio

Stories about community | Next Generation Radio at USC Annenberg 2016

Union Rescue Mission volunteers experience homelessness on the roof

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Spring break for students in the U.S. is usually a whirlwind of hangouts with friends, trips to Cabo or lounging in front of the TV and enjoying a home cooked meal. Not so for a group of sorority sisters and fraternity brothers from Washington State University and the University of Idaho. This year they decided to be of service at the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, one of the oldest homeless shelters in the country.

One of the volunteers is Chloe O’Neil. She traveled down with over a dozen students. “I thought it would be super cool to see this kind of community right in front of my eyes, and a little out of my comfort zone. I didn’t want to just go home and have a chill week. I wanted to put my time to use.”

The Union Rescue Mission serves over one million meals every year. Throughout the day, the students work in the kitchen and serve the food. At night, they head to the roof on the sixth floor of the mission, which is home for the week. Rows of tents allow the students to be in the elements and get a taste of what life is like on Skid Row in the streets below.

For Chloe, “it’s just a really unique experience I don’t think I could have had any where else.”

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