Union Rescue Mission and Skid Row
Union Rescue Mission (URM) is one of the largest missions of its kind in America — bringing help and hope to men, women, and children experiencing homelessness in Downtown Los Angeles. URM was founded in 1891 by Lyman Stewart, president and
founder of Union Oil Company. George A. Hilton served as the first superintendent of the Mission, originally known as the Pacific Gospel Union. During those early days, URM took to the streets in gospel wagons to offer food, clothing, and salvation to the less fortunate. Over the years, URM has continued and expanded its efforts to feed both the body and the soul, helping individuals and families break the cycle of poverty and achieve self-sufficiency.
This 54-block area in downtown Los Angeles became Skid Row in the late 1800s — which was when Union Rescue Mission first opened its doors. This particular area was an ideal congregating spot for hobos, aimless rail riders, transient workers, and people running away from past lives because it was the last stop on the train for the whole country. Daily rate hotels and various entertainments (mostly bars and brothels) catered to the culture of rail riders who were transient by nature.
There may be several definitions of the boundaries of Skid Row, but the one we see to be most accurate and widely accepted is 3rd and 7th Streets, to the North and South, and Alameda and Main, to the East and West, respectively. The image on the left is from 1914, showing the Union Rescue Mission’s gospel wagon distributing food at the corner of First and Los Angeles Streets.