Many Angelenos have never been to Downtown LA’s Skid Row and probably never want to go there. But one group heads down to Skid Row every chance they get because the people they care about, people who have become their friends, call it home.
The group’s moniker, Monday Night Mission, is misleading: the mission now operates five days a week.
Every weeknight in a fast food parking lot, volunteers gather who read about the group that feeds the homeless on Facebook and Craig List and soon learn the mission does more than fill stomachs.
“It’s not about the food. It’s about the connection you make,” said Zahrah, a scientist from Culver City.
Mel Tillekerante started by bringing a few hamburgers to the homeless. Now, he brings a well-stocked army that comes with their own supplies.
The growing group welcomes all religions, all races.
“We basically represent Los Angeles and help the people of Skid Row,” Tillekerante said.
His goal is to see that no one is forgotten. Before each plate of dinner is served, a chorus welcomes each person by name.
“Say hi to Brandita,” the announcer calls.
The crowd answers: “Hi, Brandita.”
What comes next are smiles and small talk.
“When they come down here it’s like a celebration,” said one homeless woman.
“When you’re getting a meal from someone who is your friend every night, it creates a different atmosphere,” said one volunteer.
Equipped with food, clothing and cupcakes supplied by Big Man Bakery, the dinner party proceeds with few problems and Tillekerante is there in case any disagreements erupt.
But Linda, who lives on Skid Row, said the visit by Monday Night Mission is a one of few bright spots down here.
“We need them. We love them. I look for them every Monday through Friday,” she said.
Linda hugs Jin, an LAUSD high school teacher whom she calls her best friend.
“This is a man I love so much and so dear for being a blessing for the people downtown on Skid Row,” Linda said.