The Los Angeles Catholic Worker (LACW) is part of the international Catholic Worker movement, which was founded in 1933 by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in New York City during the Great Depression. The Movement is gospel-centered and founded on Anarchism principles, with its primary focus “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” and enflesh Jesus’ teachings, specifically, as recorded in Matthew 25:31-46, which are referred to as the Corporal Works of Mercy: feed the hungry; give water to the thirsty; clothe the naked; shelter the homeless; visit the sick and imprisoned; bury the dead; give alms to the poor. And the Spiritual Works of Mercy, which are acts of compassion: instruct; advise; admonish; comfort; forgive; bear wrongs patiently; and pray for the living and dead, as well as to follow the Church’s Social Teachings. The Catholic Worker is a way of life
The LACW, founded in 1970, has two locations: one is its community house in Boyle Heights, three miles east of downtown, and its soup kitchen and service center in the Skid Row district, slightly southeast of the heart of downtown. In contrast to many conservative Evangelical missions/shelters and tax-exempt nonprofit organizations located within the 50 square block skid row area, the LACW identifies as a “personalist,” deliberately non-institutional community that operates a free soup kitchen (known as the Hippie Kitchen) that serves more than 3,000 hot meals each week, as well as a service center that provides dental care, foot care, toiletries, shopping carts, and mail service for the unhoused. The LACW does not solicit or accept corporate or government funding, grants, or funding from the institutional church. Our sole source of income is individual donations, and it is not a 501(c).(3) nonprofit corporation.
Full-time LACW community members live together in the Boyle Heights location (known as the Ammon Hennacy House of Hospitality) along with formally unhoused people from Skid Row. House guests can spend anywhere from a day to the longest resident guest, 20+ years. There is no board of directors, CEO, or professional staff. All full-time members receive room and board, transportation, and a $25 a week stipend. However, there is no health care plan or retirement program.
Unlike other Skid Row service organizations, the LACW attempts to take a prophetic stand for and with the poor and unhoused in opposition to the city, police, and business community, and thus periodically engages in various nonviolent demonstrations/protests and acts of civil disobedience in opposition to the city’s punitive policies toward the poor, mostly people of color.
The LACW’s prophetic stand as a resistance community is also validated in our regular vigils, demonstrations/protests, and nonviolent direct action campaigns in opposition to war and militarism, which not only oppress the poor in foreign lands but robs our domestic poor of essential resources as well. We also stand against this nation’s harsh immigration policies, racial injustices, housing crisis, economic inequality, climate emergency, and capital punishment.