The My Friend’s Place we know today all started with a sack lunch of one turkey sandwich, a chocolate pudding, a boxed drink and an orange. In December of 1987, after seeing the homeless young people on the streets in Hollywood, co-founder Craig Scholz and I decided something needed to be done.
On January 8th, 1988 we packed 50 sack lunches and headed out for our first Friday night meal drive where we were greeted by over 100 young people in need of food. Today I’m still personally proud of the fact that after that evening in ’88-we never missed a single Friday night, rain or shine.
At first we had no idea what we were doing; we simply drove around Hollywood and handed out the sack lunches. But this experience quickly changed. We began not only handing out food but spending most of our time having conversations with the young people and getting to know them. We lent them a kind ear, and learned about their lives and what brought them to the streets. Our quick hour-long route turned into two plus hours of building relationships with and learning from these young people.
These youth even taught us how to speak on the street; at first we would ask “Are you hungry” which we learned is a very shaming question because they were obviously hungry. We were quickly taught that saying something like “would you like something to eat” solicited a much better response from the young people that were weary about accepting our assistance as it gave them the option to say yes or no.
After six months, word about our meal drives reached co-workers and friends and we began getting inquiries from people who wanted to join in our efforts. For the first two years we had 15 dedicated volunteers that would rotate with Craig or me to ensure we showed up for these young people every week.
In 1990 I called a group of friends and volunteers together and held what turned out to be My Friend’s Place’s first board meeting. We decided that if we could collectively fundraise $10,000 we could establish My Friend’s Place as a veritable nonprofit organization.
In 1992 we opened our first resource center in a tiny 600 square foot store front building in Hollywood. In this tiny space we were able to serve from 50-70 young people a day, and go beyond the provision of mere sack lunches to offer clothing, phone service and a place of refuge away from the streets.
Since 1988 I’ve proudly watched My Friend’s Place grow from this two person meal outreach to the thriving organization it is today. After 25 years, My Friend’s offers comprehensive services to nearly half of the homeless youth population in Los Angeles County, and they carry on the principles of care that we started on the streets over two and a half decades ago.
Thank you for being part of our journey!
Steve LePore Craig Scholz