Written by Michael Kemp
We can all think of women who are special in our lives—the women who are our mothers, daughters, wives, friends, girlfriends, etc.; the list could go on and on. I’m sure it also goes without saying that we would do anything it takes to protect them and ensure they are kept safe, healthy, and happy.
Now imagine these same women out on the streets: forgotten, abused, and alone. That just is the reality for a staggering 1 in 3 homeless people in Los Angeles County according to 2016 estimates. A report made public by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority states the number of females experiencing homelessness has increased by 55% since 2013. A large number of these women, 20-50% to be exact, became homeless as a result of fleeing from domestic violence; that number jumps to 57% for LGBT persons. Yet once on the streets the violence doesn’t end there: almost 50% of women on skid row have been attacked in the past year, with more than 25% of these attacks sexual in nature and occurring while living in shelters.
But somehow hearing statistics like these never quite seems to cement issues in our minds like seeing the situation firsthand. Such was precisely the experience of Lightwork founder Christine Delostrinos. To begin what would become Lightwork’s first official event, Christine visited the Downtown Women’s Center on Skid Row to have a meeting with them. It was then the perturbing relationship between women and the state of homelessness was revealed to her, and Christine realized that simply providing these women with a safe space is truly the first step. Over the course of the following month, Lightwork was able to raise over $2,740 dollars amassed from 72 donations. With this money, Lightwork was able to put together the Light Essentials bags, which were ultimately given to 300 women in need.
These bags were filled with daily essentials items, aimed at providing the women with a sense of comfort, and inspiring in them a sense of hope: knowing there are people out there who care. Such items included: beanies and socks, feminine care products, reusable water bottles, toothbrushes and toothpaste, drawstring backpacks, PB&J sandwiches, bananas, apples, and short love letters personalized with inspirational messages. Seeing the joyful reaction of the women upon receiving these bags sparked a desire in everyone involved to continue to assist others and, thus, Lightwork was born. Christine recalls the strongest message expressed by the women and the Center was that of surprise: that the efforts of Lightwork was not for volunteer hours or under the scope of some large organization (or even a small one for that matter—Lightwork hadn’t even been named yet!).
In this way, the Light Essentials event beautifully showcased some of Lightwork’s key tenets: that anyone has the capability to shine their light into the world, and that there is no amount of light too small, nor such a thing as light unworthy of sharing. Christine recalls receiving an extremely impactful reminder of this message: just one week after completing the Light Essentials event, she randomly happened upon women wearing the same beanies and backpacks that were a part of the Light Essentials bag in San Pedro, 30 miles away from Skid Row, while visiting on an unrelated trip. But as Christine and all of Lightwork know, much like light, there is no other energy that travels faster than love.
Thank you to Kevin Poli, Daniel Sagun, Jack Strutz, Stix, and Victor Viega