Interview with Herb Smith from Los Angeles Mission

These days I am spending more time on Skid Row. The morning of this interview, Skid Row was a little different. You could feel the added tension. About an hour before I arrived there was a shooting, and LAPD’s added presence on the ground and in the air was easily noticed. Police ‘sweeping’ the streets caused traffic delays and I was running late. While following a slow-moving patrol car, I could not help but think how hard it must be to run a homeless services agency on Skid Row. The demand for services is always increasing while support is decreasing. I have huge respect for all the men and women who give their lives to help others on Skid Row!

I first connected with Los Angeles Mission over twitter. Angela, the girl that runs their social media, came to hear me speak at a social media event. When Huffington Post asked me to interview homeless people about this last election, it just seemed natural to ask Los Angeles Mission if they would help. I started hanging out there, and interviewed John Kelly, an outreach worker and alumni president for the mission. I started to interview a few homeless people

LA Mission's Educational Center

LA Mission’s Educational Center

around the mission. Some of whom access services there and some that don’t. Everyone I talked had great things to say about the Mission.

I was grateful Herb Smith, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Mission, took time out of his busy day for this interview and to show me around a little. Like I said earlier, I cannot even imagine the demands placed on employees, much less leadership of such large organizations in an area that has so much need such as Skid Row.

The Los Angeles Mission is a faith based organization. I was excited to learn first from John, and now in more detail from Herb, that the mission is partnering with other organizations in the community for more impact. Poverty and homelessness is far too big for any one organization, yet many faith based orgs want to play “Lone Ranger” and do their own thing. Truth is, they just don’t want to change. I find it very refreshing Los Angeles Mission (and others) are willing to change to help more people.

There were lots of things I really liked about the Los Angeles Mission. I thought their educational centers were amazing, and I was glad to see they had a commitment to use education as a tool to help people get out of poverty. I also liked that they have an emergency shelter program. Of course, the mission has their faith based recovery program for those who want to take that path, but the mission’s emergency shelter helps everyone.

You may or may not know that for many years I worked in church marketing. Being candid, while most churches are trying to be “hip, slick and cool” to attract new members, they should embrace the rescue mission model of helping hurting people in their community.