All four corners of Fifth and Crocker streets, a mile south of Los Angeles City Hall, were bustling with activity Thursday morning. People, most of them homeless, shuffled down the line as volunteers pointed out clothes on tables that might fit their children. Shoes were bundled together, and boxes of clothes seemed endless.
Volunteers set up tables and unloaded boxes about 8 a.m. Trash bags were taped down over certain areas of the sidewalk to mask human waste.
“It’s a harsh reality, but it’s reality,” Caroline McKiernan said.
For Dennis Simms, a Canoga Park resident who’s led the effort for nine years, the event has become a “personal passion.”
“Between my wife and I, we feel there are too many times when we as a society, we don’t reach back?.?.?.?we bring our niece and nephew to see not everything is pristine out here, and there are some times you have to roll up your sleeves to get stuff done.”
Natalie Deluna, 16, was handed an aqua Patagonia down jacket — a perfect fit for her 10-month-old son, Brandon, who sat peacefully in his stroller.
Caroline McKiernan handed a family of four a pair of pants and a sweater for a young girl, whose mother smiled and nodded in approval. McKiernan began clapping, while her daughter found a young girl in line and gave her a red sweater vest with a big smiling Santa Claus fastener.
More than 700 families participated, organizers said. For many, it was the only taste of Christmas they would have.
“It’s about the kids,” said William Howard, 43, who clutched his hygiene kit. “They’re smiling, getting things, people are being nice, that’s what matters to me.”
He been out of work all year, moving from hotel to hotel while trying to find jobs working lawns, doing repairs and cutting hair, Howard said.
It was his first Christmas Eve on Skid Row.
“As long as [the children’s] spirits are up, I’ll be OK,” he said.