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Skid Row Giveaway Plans To Avoid Repeat of Last Year's "Utter Disaster"

By David Markland
Published: Tuesday, October 05, 2010, at 02:43PM
In-N-Out Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Once they got inside the event, families were given clothing, shoes, bath products, and even burgers at the annual Fred Jordan Mission event.

The Fred Jordan Mission is preparing to give away shoes, clothing, and other goods to 5000 poor children on Thursday, and taking extra measures to avoid a repeat of what police described as an "utter disaster" at last year's event.

Foot Locker, Lucky Brand jeans, and Unilever are among the donors providing products that will be handed out at the Skid Row mission on Thursday, sending kids home with backpacks of school and grooming supplies, new haircuts, and In-N-Out burgers. 300 volunteers from the assorted participating companies and other organizations will be on hand to distribute the items and provide services.

However, in October 2009 blogdowntown reported that year's giveaway was plagued by "pure chaos." Crowds began lining up 72 hours prior to the event, creating trash, and blocking area businesses from customers and deliveries.

Working with the Los Angeles Police Department and other community leaders, event organizer Debbie McClendon Smith says a comprehensive plan is already working to control the crowds.

On Monday, colored wristbands began being distributed to registrants, with different colors representing a different two hour time block for when the children wearing them can enter the event. Those first in line will have lavender wristbands that will allow them inside once the doors open at 9am on Thursday.

The Fred Jordan Mission insisted that they've repeated the message that anyone who showed up for the event earlier than 6am Thursday morning would be turned away, and that they'd need to pre-register for a wristband to get in. In addition, they won't announce where the front of the line will be, so anyone showing up early could be in the wrong place. As of Monday evening, they estimated at least 500 people had arrived and received wristbands.

The long lines at last year's event created disruptions for area businesses, keeping away foot traffic and blocking deliveries. This year the lines will be kept on 5th Street, where organizers believe there are few businesses that could be affected. Twenty volunteers and officers will patrol to keep everything in order and to hand out water and snacks.

Ten portapotties will be delivered at 6am Thursday morning. In 2009, portable restrooms that were brought in a day early intended for the crowds were quickly overrun by prostitutes and drug dealers.

City Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose office has been keeping tabs on the event, said they had confidence in this year's plans. The LAPD has worked closely with the Fred Jordan Mission to create a proactive mitigation plan for crowd management and to reduce the impacts on local businesses. They have assured us that they feel confident that the event will be reasonably well-managed."

While the event is prepared for 5000 children, the actual number of people who will show up remains to be seen.

Suzanne Choi, a spokesperson for the Fred Jordan Mission noted that the recession has been a hit on donors as well as volunteers. "People who were donors are now our clients."

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