Friday, November 7, 2014

Once a month Latrina Wilcher goes to Skid Row to hand out slices of cake and pie in heart-shaped boxes. Her goal is to help the homeless people in Los Angeles “one pastry at a time.” 

“These treats are not the healthiest in the world, but it costs money to get a cupcake or cookie,” said Wilcher, a South L.A. native. “So I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to give them something that would take them a lot to get somewhere else.”

 Wilcher calls her project Sweet Tri Pastries. It emerged from Wilcher’s insatiable desire to help others.  She also volunteers sharing her story and doing marketing for I am a Girl, a documentary on the obstacles and perseverance of women fighting for equality in the 21st century. She is writing a children’s book to help children in the foster system cope with their experiences. After the closing of the restaurant where she worked, Nite Moon CafĂ© in Hollywood, Wilcher was unsure what her next career move would be, but she knew it would involve helping others. She then decided to use her talent for baking with this goal in mind and Sweet Tri Pastries was born. 

Wilcher then started collecting donations for her Skid Row pastry runs. She needs about $150 to make one trip to Skid Row, an amount she hopes to be able to fundraise every two weeks. She has two companions that help her, Zachary Greenblott and LaToya Alvarez.
So far, the response has been positive. Wilcher is usually greeted with a smile and thank you. The homeless who seek services on Skid Row can get their vital needs met at soup kitchens and temporary housing centers, but they rarely have the opportunity to taste the kinds of delicacies that Wilcher brings on her trips. Along with sweets, Wilcher brings cases of water because there are few water fountains nearby. 

The people that Wilcher hands out her baked goods to are part of the estimated 58,000 homeless in Los Angeles according to the L.A. Homeless Count, a report conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority once every two years. Wilcher herself was once part of this statistic.

Her mother became a drug addict at age 16 and has never stopped Wilcher became part of the foster care system at the age of two. She lived in a foster home and then group home until she was emancipated at age 18. Then, she moved into transitional housing and eventually began couchsurfing wherever her friends offered her a place to stay. 

With the support of friends and organizations, such as Sanctuary of Hope, 26-year-old Wilcher was finally able to find a job and a place to call home in Hollywood.Throughout all this, she has never forgotten the importance of helping others.
“I always loved helping the homeless,” Wilcher said.  “Some people just don’t understand that if you are chronically homeless, it’s not by choice. You just have no other way.” 

Having lived as a ward of the state in Los Angeles, Wilcher knows that in trying to tackle issues of homelessness, the problems run deep.  One of the hardest parts of her trips, according to Wilcher, is doubting whether she has helped these people at all. Many have even deeper issues. About 30 percent of homeless in L.A. are mentally ill, and about 30 percent are substance abusers, according to the L.A. Homeless Count. 

Wilcher said she tries to remember that her goal is not to fix all the problems of the homeless community, but instead offer something simpler. Like her grandmother’s sweet potato pie. It’s a crowd favorite that people say reminds them of the holidays they so rarely get to fully celebrate.

“I can’t give them a house,” said Wilcher. “But I can give them a bottle of water, a cookie, a cupcake, a smile and some love.” 

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