This LINK details Pope Francis’ call for a “World Day of the Poor” as an opportunity to grow in mercy and charity, and in shaping attitudes toward the poor and needy.
This LINK explains the United Nations “World Toilet Day” as a time to take action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. Today, 4.5 billion people live without a household toilet that safely disposes of their waste.
Both of these significant issues–poverty and severe lack of sanitation–affect most of the folks who eat at our soup kitchen. We applaud Pope Francis for challenging each of us to look at our attitude toward the poor and homeless in our midst, and around the world. We must ask ourselves, What does it say about this, the wealthiest society in human history, who also believes itself a “Christian” society, yet also believes it acceptable that millions of its citizens are forced to live on the streets of our cities and towns, often without sufficient sanitation? How tragic that we reject God’s mandate in Deuteronomy 15:4 that, “There should be no one of you in need.” And Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-46 that whatever we do or fail to do to the least among us we also do to Him.
Here in Los Angeles we have more than 51,000 homeless people, including approximately 4,000 who live on the streets of Skid Row in unconscionable subhuman conditions due to a severe lack of sanitation facilities. The City and County of Los Angeles have failed miserably to meet the standards set by the United Nations Policy For Refugee Camps. According to a recent report, refugee camps in Syria have better sanitation conditions than on Skid Row. The study requires 164 toilets and hand washing stations be installed by year’s end to meet these standards. If this is not bad enough, Governor Brown recently declared a state of emergency because of the Hepatitis A outbreak. Toilets and hand washing stations are essential to help combat and defeat this critical health crisis.
Both, our faith and the United Nations, call us to act. This is a great time to contact L.A. city officials–Councilman Jose Huizar’s office at 213-473-7014 and Mayor Eric Garcetii’s office at 213-978-0600 to demand that the 164 portable toilets and hand washing stations immediately be placed on the streets of Skid Row. This health crisis cannot and must not continue any longer.