I have taken great interest in providing drinking water to people in need. For the last eight years I have made drinking water issues the focus of my participation with the Rainbow Family. This is the story of Watercorps, where we provide bulk drinking water to the homeless people of the Skid Row district of Los Angeles. Rainbow Family
In February of 2006 I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in a hurricane Katrina relief effort at Emergency Communities / Made With Love Kitchen in Saint Bernard’s Parish Louisiana. While in the area I got to witness the heroic efforts of the Common Ground Collective in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans Louisiana. That spring / summer I organized a water transport effort at the Rainbow Family gathering of the tribes in Colorado, under the banner of Rainbow Water Corps. This effort brought over 400 gallons of drinking water into the gathering. Once the water had been consumed the empty gallon plastic bottles were refilled with Rainbow filtered water.
Upon returning from Colorado I felt encouraged to take a step towards advancing my passion for drinking water issues along a career path. I looked at examples of many programs that brought clean safe drinking water to people in need. I believe that is one of humanities most pressing needs. I was especially informed by a study by the World Health Organization titled Drinking Water Response To The Indian Ocean Tsunami. WHO Study
After much study and sole searching I came to the conclusion that I would found a charity devoted to engaging in relief and development water issues. Having decided to found the above-mentioned charity I was faced with a new dilemma, where to begin. I started with some definitions. I defined relief water as the drinking water response to a natural or man-made disaster. I defined development water as a response to the drinking water issues of people who do not have access to safe clean drinking water even on a good day.
A relief response would entail preparing my new and untested organization for a relief response to an unknown disaster, sometime in the future. A development approach would most likely entail an international response, an equally daunting prospect. Starting up such a charitable organization from scratch was challenging to say the least.
In a moment of clarity it came to me. Perhaps I should start closer to home. What about a program to bring drinking water to the homeless people of skid row in Los Angeles? My longtime girlfriend Dorie owns a bridal shop and I have made many trips to the fashion district of Los Angeles. On these trips I have long observed the humanitarian disaster that is the fashion district’s close neighbor Skid Row. On some of my visits downtown I would venture into Skid Row to observe the lives of the people who literally inhabit the sidewalks of this area.
Skid row is a district of downtown Los Angeles that has perhaps the largest concentration of homeless people in the nation. Its history goes back in living memory as the go to place for homelessness. I will offer more later on the history and culture of Skid Row and the people who live there. For now I will offer perhaps a simplistic explanation of how Skid Row developed. A long time ago, the first rescue mission opened to serve the homeless population of inter city Los Angeles. The homeless people responded by taking advantage of the rescue mission’s services. More missions opened and more homeless came… I concluded that by starting up a drinking water project serving the homeless people of Skid Row Los Angeles, I would be addressing elements of both relief and development water.
Applying just do it logic, on October 15th of 2006 Watercorps became operational. I loaded 24 one gallon plastic bottles of filtered drinking water into my car and headed for Skid Row. I parked on the east side of San Pedro Street just short of 6th Street. I got out, and with a stack of 16 ounce paper cups in one hand and a gallon plastic bottle of filtered drinking water in the other, I walked up to my first client and said; “Thirsty? Like a drink?”
There are many charities providing food clothing and other comfort items to the homeless people of Skid Row. However the specialty of drinking water distribution was not being done. Watercorps was a hit right away. The hot streets of Skid Row are a very dry place. There is no public place besides one drinking fountain each in two small parks in an area of fifty city blocks where a person can get a drink of water. I made a commitment right away to do a water distribution run at least once a week I have faithfully kept that commitment without fail.
The 16-ounce paper drinking cups quickly gave way to giving each client a one-gallon bottle of water. Distribution practices improved, and gallon per run counts went up from 24, 36, 48 and finally 96-gallon runs. Watercorps has received donated new one-gallon plastic water bottles, and we are able to filter Los Angeles tap water for taste. We still buy bottled water. As part of the Watercorps mission I have become a homeless, human rights and Skid Row activist.
Even in winter the sidewalks of Skid Row can be a very hot and dry place. It didn’t take long to project the needs of Watercorps’ clients from winter into the hot days of summer. All through the spring Watercorps has been making preparations for ramping up the water distribution program, in order to make a real difference when the hot days of summer come around.
Apart from soliciting industry for in kind donations and the casual pitch to my friends and associates, this is the first mass outreach for Watercorps. I will endeavor to make updates on a regular basis, under the subject line “Greetings From Skid Row”.
To my rainbow friends, the national gathering of the tribes 2007 in Arkansas will be the first national gathering I will miss since I started in 2000. I will be here in Los Angeles doing the good work. I will be at the gathering in spirit.
Founder Watercorps human and homeless rights activist
Needs List is as follows: Local Volunteers Web / E-Mail help Bottled water fob. Los Angeles One gallon plastic bottles fob Los Angeles Cold Storage Space / Warehouse space in Los Angeles Pick Up Truck Cash Donations.