Story by Eddie Zhou
Photo by Oscar Walsh
Local activist group Black Lives Matter (BLM) South Pasadena emphasizes humanity and respect for unhoused community members in its lunch and donation drives at Garfield Park every Monday at 12 p.m. Volunteers distribute homemade and purchased meals, drinks, masks, hand sanitizer, snacks, and other everyday items to those in need.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a particularly harmful impact on the unhoused population, prompting drive organizer and community member Anne Bagasao to take action. Places such as homeless shelters and churches that normally offer food, shelter, and other important services to people experiencing homelessness have either closed or reduced capacity, making an already difficult period even harder for unhoused residents.
“The loneliest feeling one can experience is that of being made invisible,” Bagasao said. “Myself, along with our many volunteers, are committed to letting our unhoused neighbors know that they are not invisible, they matter, [and] there are humans out here who care about them.”
The weekly drives began on Monday, Jan. 4, and follow the structure of past events organized by BLM South Pasadena on Thanksgiving and during the holiday season. Participants socialize and discuss ongoing needs with volunteers, who distribute extra meals to neighboring encampments such as those in Eagle Rock and El Sereno.
“Our goal is to show South Pasadena that our unhoused neighbors are individuals worthy of the same respect and compassion that we afford to any other member of our community,” Bagasao said. “We don’t only host meals and distribute sack lunches and gear, we coordinate with advocacy groups like SELAH [Neighborhood Homeless Coalition] and Street Watch L.A. We advocate for the unhoused community at City Hall.”
Although the weekly meal distributions only represent a portion of the group’s efforts, the members hope that such efforts can spur increased action among residents and encourage them to reflect on biases they might have against those facing homelessness.
“I simply encourage folks to act on their own humanity,” Bagasao said. “They are our neighbors. They are our brothers and sisters. We have the means. We just need to get past the prejudices and misconceptions. The best way to do that is to get involved.”
Those who wish to contribute can fill out a volunteer form that can be found on the group’s Instagram @blacklivesmattersouthpasadena, and any questions can be directed to Anne Bagasao (@shesjustanne).