Los Angeles

Skid Row Homeless Shelter Offers the Chance to Give Back

After spending time in jail Joey Weinert was miserable, barely making ends meet, feeding his drug habit. He'd hit rock bottom.

He had a choice.

Continuing to struggle or a path to recovery.

He learned about a path when he visited his uncle, also a recovering addict, at the Midnight Mission.

"My recovery gave me the ability to have a life," said Weinert, 38. "I still hold my recovery in high regard, and I maintain that recovery is of prime importance."

Weinert, who studies communications at Santa Monica college, is a volunteer manager for the Midnight Mission, a non-faith based human services organization on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles.

The Mission is one of the oldest fixtures in downtown helping the homeless as the LA faces what Mayor Eric Garcetti has called the "humanitarian crisis of our time."

The number of homeless across the county has risen by 12% last year, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority's 2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

Garcetti has vowed to cut the number of homeless by expanding shelters, housing, and services. Midnight Mission, meanwhile, has been offering food, shelter, 12-step recovery, character building, and life skills classes for many years.

Shlomo Nadler was also once at the end of his rope.

He said he had been banned from all sober living homes in the greater Phoenix area, "living on random people's couches."

"I wasn't proud of where I was and assumed I'd be dead by either overdose or gunshot," he said.

In 2016, he went to the Midnight Mission.

Between 2016 and 2017, he relapsed three times. At one point, he said, he was in a drug-fueled haze and sold his food stamps and the Wi-Fi passwords of local establishments to fund his drug addiction.

He eventually stayed sober, a requirement to graduate from the program, and now works for the Mission.

He won't forget the feeling of reaching the bottom and seeing people threatened, robbed and stabbed in a place he described as "Third World."

"I was so angry that I'd wound up on Skid Row," he said. "The moment I realized I'd be OK was when I started thinking about using again, and instead of thinking of all the fun I used to have, I immediately thought about all the horrible stuff."

Nadler is living on the third floor of the Midnight Mission until he can independently lease an apartment. He has repaired his relationship with his family, and said he is in a better place.

"I'm happy where I work," he said. "I'm thrilled that I've got my family back. And I've been humbled enough to really be grateful for what I have now."

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