For most, the winter months bring hot coffee, warm blankets and smoldering fireplaces, which provide comfort and uplifted spirits in time for the holidays. For some, however, the winter months bring the most difficult times.
According to the 2009 Annual Homeless Report to Congress, nearly 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year. In Los Angeles County, approximately 82,000 people live homeless on the street, including anywhere upwards of 5,000 children. Skid Row has a permanent population of around 6,000 of Los Angeles County’s homeless citizens, with a steady cycle of thousands of others coming through every night. USC’s chapter of the Alpha Phi Omega community service-based leadership fraternity is making an effort to combat homelessness on Skid Row this holiday season with a benefit concert at Ground Zero Friday at 6 p.m.
The acoustic-style concert features headliner Clara C. (Clara Chung), a YouTube-famous acoustic artist and 2009 winner of Kollaboration L.A. Shawn Halim, a sophomore majoring in popular music, will also perform.
“I wanted to reach out to the homeless community on Skid Row and help them by providing … items that we have the privilege to call our basic necessities,” said Alpha Phi Omega president Michelle Kang in a press release about the event.
Alpha Phi Omega is a co-ed service fraternity dedicated to serving the community in the greater Los Angeles area. Members often volunteer in homeless shelters and have witnessed the poverty and homelessness that affects Los Angeles. Their Monday Night Missions reach out to those on Skid Row on a weekly basis to provide as many meals as possible. Unfortunately, the fraternity does not have the funds to provide shelter, blankets and supplies. In honor of National Homelessness Awareness Week, Kang decided that greater awareness and funds needed to be raised and formulated the idea for a benefit concert.
“Two years ago, I actually did a mission trip that helped out with homeless people on Skid Row where I spent a week living right near the slums,” Halim said. “We got up each morning to help and I saw firsthand what it’s like for people living there. Because of that [experience], this benefit is close to my heart.”
For the concert, Halim will contribute a special acoustic set that will feature both covers and original songs, including music that he has never played for a crowd before. Halim is bringing along his friends in the form of a backup band, which will include a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and box drummer.
Halim, who has performed at Ground Zero for midterms in his popular music classes, has never had the opportunity to perform his own set there.
“A bunch of my friends are in APO and they asked me to play and I said yes right away,” Halim said. “It means a lot to me to be able to share music for a cause. I want to show people that it’s not just entertainment. Music isn’t just listening, it’s something that can be used for a lot of good and being able to demonstrate that with a benefit concert is a huge blessing to me.”
Kang is excited to help benefit Skid Row in a way that’s also fun for students.
“I thought that having a benefit concert would be a fun and entertaining way to help raise awareness among USC students about what is happening in the greater Los Angeles area … and raise money for such a great cause,” Kang said.
Homeless people, both in and out of Los Angeles, are an often-neglected population. Halim feels there are ample opportunities to help the homeless community, especially at USC where there are so many people in need in the areas around campus.
“I go out of my way to help homeless people on the street, even the ones who live near here,” Halim said. “I think it’s so unfortunate that we neglect homeless people and take things for granted.”
Admission to the concert will be free, but voluntary donations, even small ones, are encouraged. As little as $5 is enough to provide 10 meals to the less fortunate people living on Skid Row.
The benefit will also feature a silent auction, including items such as movie tickets and gift cards donated by Los Angeles-area sponsors. Raffle tickets for a chance to win a meet and greet with the performers will be sold for $2 each or $10 for six.
All proceeds from the raffle, silent auction and door donations will go toward blankets, food and hygiene products for Monday Night Mission. APO members will deliver all the items they are able to purchase to Skid Row inhabitants in the coming weeks.
APO’s Skid Row benefit concert will take place Friday, Nov. 22 at Ground Zero at 6 p.m. For winners of the raffle, the meet and greet will begin at 9 p.m.
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