Kobe Bryant On A Mission To Eradicate Homelessness

Kobe Bryant hit the streets on Tuesday night while visiting Los Angeles Mission, a nonprofit organization that assists the homeless living in the Skid Row area of downtown LA.

ESPN reports that the NBA legend is attempting to tackle the issue of homelessness in the city where he has played basketball professionally since 1996. Speaking to ESPN, Bryant said:

“I was trying to hear some of their stories and some of their backgrounds and how they got to this position. I wanted to know when that switch went off inside of them and they said, ‘I need help; I want to turn my life around.’ It gave me great perspective.”

A 2011 estimate revealed that of Skid Row’s 17,740 inhabitants, 4,316 people were homeless. One of those, a 58-year-old man who has been in and out of the mission for the past 12 months, touched Bryant with his story:

“He was extremely articulate and he had a great life and he made a poor choice and ended up on the streets. He came to the L.A. Mission weighing 135 pounds and now he’s healthy and his weight is back up. He’s 58 but he’s in better shape than I am. […] You get to hear their stories and you get to find out first-hand what’s going on.”

Bryant added that homeless individuals are too often blamed personally for their dire situation, and points out that homelessness could affect anybody who makes a poor decision:

“This issue gets pushed into the backburner because it’s easy to put the blame on those that are homeless and say you made that bad decision and that’s the reason why you are where you are and it’s your fault. We all make mistakes and to just sit back and watch this and to wash your hands of it by saying that’s your fault, that’s not right and it’s not fair.”

Bryant also describes how statistics in a 2011 report from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority awoke him to the grim reality about homelessness in LA; the study revealed that there is a staggering 51,340 homeless people in Los Angeles County on any given day. Says Bryant:

“It puts things into perspective. At the end of the day there’s only so many interviews you can do and stories you can write. You have to do something that carries more weight and has more significance and purpose to it. My career is winding down and at the end of it, I want to look back and said I had a successful career because I won so many championships and scored so many points. There’s something else you have to do with that.”