For the past six years, Michael Lopez, who now has a master’s degree in Forensic Psychology, has been serving the homeless of Skid Row, Los Angeles.
Skid Row covers fifty city blocks east of downtown LA and has a population of just under 5,000. The neighborhood houses one of the largest stable populations of people affected by homelessness in the United States.
Years ago, Lopez experienced the loss of his mother while he was behind bars. His mother’s death and his inability to attend her funeral hit him hard. Of the experience, he explained:
“I got tired of going nowhere. I was in prison when my mom died. I wasn’t able to come home for the services. Stuff hit me hard, I just got tired.”
The former gang member who has served five prison terms, said he “asked God: ‘clean me up, clean me up and I’ll do what you want me to do’.” Lopez says he was then “blessed” with a non-profit called Mission E.C.H.O.
Mission E.C.H.O. collects donations from across the country and, along with volunteers from across California, distributes food, clothing, and necessities to those in need.
“The fact that my addiction had me homeless, my addiction had me at the bottom of the barrel, so I got tired,” Lopez explained. “Once I was able to, you know put my head together…I went back to school. I graduated with both a bachelor’s and a master’s. But I never forgot about the people who are still struggling.”
One single mother of four who has utilized Mission E.C.H.O.’s services said:
“I’m not so fortunate to go and buy any and everything that they want. This is helping me, this is helping them. This is making the kids happy.”
“It brings me to tears sometimes because I wish my mom was here to see it,” Lopez said. “We can change, people can change. You have to want it, you have to do the footwork.”