The Women and Children on Skid Row

“To capture the specific horror of Los Angeles’ homeless crisis, one just needs to enter the 50-block perimeter of downtown known as Skid Row. The sidewalks have disappeared, buried beneath endless rows of sagging tents and what spills from them: stuffed animals, clothing, a bicycle tire, blankets, condoms and hypodermic needles. The residents of Skid Row walk in the street, especially the women… dodging cars that speed up just to get through this place.” G. Hillard, NPR

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

A pink umbrella peeks through a collapsed tent home on L.A’s Skid Row. NPR

Excerpt: Women Of LA’s Skid Row Tell Their Stories Through The Anger, Despair On Their Faces By  Gloria Hillard, NPR

“LAPD Officer Deon Joseph has been working on these streets for 20 years…Joseph says there’s no difference between day and night anymore. Most of the crime happens out of sight, in the tents, which have been taken over by the gangs.‘Whenever I see a new face, especially a woman, I tell them the rules: don’t borrow money from anybody because once you do that you are bought and paid for, he says.

A mentally ill homeless woman cries out while holding a pay phone after running through several blocks of downtown Los Angeles, yelling and screaming. (Jae C. Hong:AP)

In the evening homeless women stake out their spots on Skid Row in front of the closed Downtown Women’s Center. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News:SCNG)

Just like the new condos five blocks away, the sidewalks have become expensive real estate. Joseph says the landlords are the gangs. In order to stay on the block, he explains, one woman here was forced by the Grape Street Crips to give up her entire Social Security check every month… ‘They are you or me divided by circumstance,’ says Georgia Berkovich, of the Midnight Mission. ‘A catastrophic illness in the family that depletes their savings…Financial issues and the lack of affordable housing are increasingly impacting women.

A homeless women and her children walk to their Skid Row shelter. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News:SCNG)


No one never imagines they’ll end up on these streets, Berkovich says. ‘First you would stay with friends and then you’d stay with family and maybe you’d wear out your welcome and you say ‘we’ll just stay in our car.’

A [homeless] woman dances near the entrance of the LAPD’s Central Station before hitting the Skid Row streets screaming. (Photo Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News:SCNG)

The next step, Berkovich says, is usually a shelter. But most of the shelters are full. So, you get a tent. ‘But now the drug dealers and pimps have taken over your tent,’ she continues.

Victoria Evans, a former bus driver who ended up homeless after caring for her daughter and then surviving two bouts of cancer. Evans now has a culinary degree and works. Sarah Reingewirtz,

Many of the women on the street pull suitcases behind them. Joyce Robles is one of them. She’s wears a heavy camouflage jacket on this very hot day. Robles, 51, says her husband passed away about three years ago. She has been living on the streets for two. ‘I’ve been raped, I’ve been stabbed,”‘she says, “it’s been hard out here for me.’

LAPD Officer Deon Joseph

You can guess how long people have been here by the anger or despair on their faces, their clothing, the way they walk.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann


II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Many women show despair on their faces.
  2. Los Angeles is in the middle of a homeless crisis.
  3. Most of the crime happens in the tents.
  4. Just five blocks away the new condos are being built.
  5. One woman had to give up her entire Social Security check every month.
  6. They are you or me divided by circumstance.
  7. Sometimes  a catastrophic illness in the family depletes their savings.
  8. Lack of affordable housing  is one issue that is increasingly impacting women.
  9. When the shelters are full women are forced to live in tents.
  10. Many women say that the shelter is only temporary.

Vocabulary Organizer by Against All Odds


Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

Greer and her party/partner, who is deaf/deer, thought life/lie would be easier/easily for them in Los Angeles. They were dripped/dropped off at the Greyhound station just blocks/boats away. They had never heard of Skid Row.  After a couple of days on the street/straight they were grateful a shock/shelter took them in.


 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.


  1. We just got here from Louisville like three month ago.
  2. They say the shelter is only temporary.
  3. One hopes that is true.



  1. Deon Joseph has been working on these streets for 20 years.
  2. A few feet away a woman is trying to clean up the litter  on front of her tent.
  3. I know it’s too old to be down here, but things happen.



  1. Many of the woman on the street pull suitcases.
  2. Joyce wears a heavy camouflage jacket.
  3. She has been living on the streets for two years.


III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  answer and discuss the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Is there a large population of homeless people in your city or your country?
  2. Are there many women and children who are homeless?
  3. Are there shelters  for  homeless people? 
  4. What is being done to help the homeless?
  5. With your group members think of ways citizens can help homeless people.



Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.


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