By Jack Grimm

St. Vincent Cardinal Manning Center sits on Winston Street, between Los Angeles and Wall streets on the lower end of Skid Row, where close to half of Los Angeles county’s 12,000 homeless live. Some live in shelters like this one, others on the streets.

The center opens its doors at 6:00 a.m. By 7:15, almost a hundred and fifty men have come in. Trey, the resident assistant, tells me that the center serves breakfast and lets the men shower, use the internet, or make a phone call. Most are watching the news on TV. Some sleep in their seats. Later this afternoon, the center will provide a Mind, Body, and Soul group and a sports discussion hour.

Sixty-five men live here, working with a case worker to find a new home. They stay for up to six months.

Peter, of Armenian descent, grew up in Baghdad, and immigrated to United States in 1975 when he was eighteen. He’s 59 now. “I worked as a driver, most of the time; in a warehouse; mailroom clerk. Low level, low-paying jobs mostly. I worked as a cab driver for many years. I never made that much money, but I earned a living. I was able to save some money but something would happen and it would wipe the money out, like the car breaks down, or I would become sick.”

Peter hasn’t worked for two years and now lives at the shelter. “They’re supposed to help me find housing, and help me find something [for work,] but it looks like at this point I’m going to end up in another shelter at least for a while.”

When he couldn’t pay rent anymore, he moved directly into a winter shelter, before moving here in December. “I’m coping with it, but it’s tough. You need to put up with rules and policies and some of them are quite nonsensical. I take long walks. I try to exercise, and I just think and study.” He walks down to Central Library on 5th Street, where he studies history and geography.

Part 2 appears tomorrow,  June 21