(Tom Grode shared the below information with me today from Central City Community Outreach on San Pedro Street. It speaks to the changing demographics of Skid Row and specifically children, which I have written about before. I can attest to Skid Row Karaoke being the hottest ticket in the neighborhood- people here LOVE it!)
To our partners in ministry:
As an organization, we have watched the changing environment in Skid Row over the last few years. The redevelopment of the historic core of downtown Los Angeles has seen many welfare hotels turned into upscale, market-rate housing. Other welfare hotels have converted to serve adults only or other special populations, and they no longer accept families. As a natural consequence of this demographic change, we have seen fewer and fewer children coming into our program.
After 19 amazing years, we have made the painful but necessary decision to close our S.A.Y. Yes! program so that we can retool to better serve the changing neighborhood in Skid Row. The board of Central City Community Outreach is planning to develop and launch new outreach programs next year, and we are excited to see how God leads us.
We started the S.A.Y. Yes! Center for Youth Development in response to the needs of the literally hundreds of children (at one time) living in welfare hotels and shelters in Skid Row. We met those needs with a comprehensive after school program that offered tutoring, mentoring, nutritious meals, spiritual nurture and fun activities five days a week. So many of the children who attended our program are now adults, in their 20s and 30s, pursuing productive lives after having been touched by our staff as we walked with them through some of the most difficult times of their childhood.
Though we are sad S.A.Y. Yes! is closing, it is, in a way, comforting to recognize the fact that there are very few children living on Skid Row, and that the vast majority of newly homeless children are spared the horrific conditions of the violent, gang, drug, and prostitute filled welfare hotels of the past. It is also a blessing to see the lasting spiritual influence the S.A.Y. Yes! Center has had over three decades.
We want to thank our donors for their consistent financial and prayer support through the years. There are so many thank you’s to shout out – to the individuals, churches, businesses and foundations who have partnered with us to make a permanent difference in our kids’ lives.
As a necessary step in closing the S.A.Y. Yes! program, we will also be releasing our staff members. It hurts to see them go. They have been the soul of Central City Community Outreach. Year after year, as children came and went, our employees took the kids into their hearts and ministered to them whole-heartedly in the power of God’s love, despite the low pay, difficult working conditions and scarce resources. They made daily sacrifices of their personal comforts to walk around the neighborhood, visit families in welfare hotels, and park their cars in Skid Row. They taught a thousand lessons just by being a daily, reliable and loving presence to people experiencing the pain and chaos of homelessness.
In this time of transition, Central City Community Outreach will continue its Karaoke Coffee Club ministry to adults. Karaoke Coffee Club is still the hottest party on Skid Row every Wednesday night, offering a chance to escape the streets and experience good times of fellowship, coffee, crooning, line dancing, as well as prayer and pastoral counseling.
In addition to Karaoke, the Outreach will also carry on with our strong partnership with the neighborhood church, the Central City Community Church of the Nazarene, which worships and meets in our shared facility.
The board of directors is actively exploring sustainable and relevant program ideas to serve, in collaboration with the church, the unmet needs of the Skid Row population and to be a witness of God’s unfailing love for the lost and fallen. I hope we can count on our many friends to stick by us during this time of rebuilding and redirection.
Although we are not running a deficit at this time, your continued financial and prayer support will be a huge encouragement to us as we maintain existing programs like Karaoke and reach out to the community with new programs.
Thank you for your partnership over the years, and we covet your prayers for our future journey carrying on the mission of Central City Community Outreach.
Jon Primuth, Chair,
Central City Community Outreach Board of Directors