Homeless celebrate 'Christmas in July' with snow in downtown L.A.
Dalia Gutierrez, 23, quit her job to live at Hope Gardens Family Center, a transitional housing complex that administers a program that helped her get back custody of her daughter.
Having lived at the center for about a year, Gutierrez wanted Wednesday to be different from the rest of the year. After all, it was her daughter’s birthday.
She was one of more than 100 people who arrived Wednesday morning to attend Union Rescue Mission’s “Christmas in July,” an annual event held in downtown L.A. that invites homeless families to celebrate the holiday spirit with snow, Santa Claus and presents.
“I came just for the experience, so she can get the experience doing something else,” said Gutierrez, who doesn’t normally go to these events.
About 10:30 a.m., children and teens flooded the lot behind Union Rescue Mission’s downtown shelter, racing to a penned-off area filled with mounds of snow.
“I was an underdog in the fight. Nobody expected me to win,” Lopez said to the kids. “Just work hard and anything can come true.”
Minutes later, a swarm of children rushed in, laughing and smiling as they balled up mounds of snow in the 82-degree weather.
“The goal is to bring summer and snow to kids who may not ever see it,” said Alexander Cornejo, manager of Union Rescue Mission’s volunteer department, as he got smacked with a large snowball. “Right now they can forget about their situation and [be] in La La Land.”
In a white tank, black shorts, and Ugg-like boots, Zoey Dawson, 13, left the pit half-soaked with melted snow. Her friend followed her out with a snowball in tow.
“You don’t have to sit there in the shelter and worry about things. You can just go out there and have fun with your friends,” said Zoey, who lives at the shelter with her mom.
The event also featured a Santa Claus wearing a half-suit with shorts and Nike sandals; there was face painting, balloons, carnival games and free food.
Sporting a Tinkerbell-inspired face paint mask, Sharesse Perry, 23, played the ring toss at a booth. She had brought her 1-year-old daughter, Nabaeh, who sat comfortably in her stroller.
“This event brings the family together,” said Perry, who has been staying at Hope Gardens Family Center. “So it doesn’t matter where you’re from … you can still come here and everyone is still family.”