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At the Midnight Mission, an art program to nurture the creative spirit

The Midnight Mission in downtown L.A.'s Skid Row serves nearly a million meals each year to the homeless. But on the second Thursday of each month, it aims to nurture their spirits.

Art With A Mission encourages homeless and near-homeless visitors to come to the organization's day room and create drawings, paintings and more. Crayons, markers and paint sets are provided.

"There are some people who come in who you couldn't even have a conversation with because they're so severely mentally ill," director of public affairs Georgia Berkovich tells KPCC. "But they will sit down and create these beautiful works of art."

She thinks the biggest benefit of the program, now in its fifth year, is the way it builds relationships and community.

"I think it's a way for people to express themselves that don't have any other way," Berkovich says. "They're used to walking around on our streets and [people trying] to avoid eye contact with them. I used to do that. So when they come in to do art and they see that we care and we listen... It's an opportunity to be seen and heard in a unique way."

Although the Midnight Mission has participated in Downtown Art Walk, the organization has mostly kept Art With A Mission low-key endeavor. Each month, paintings and drawings are hung on the Midnight Mission's walls in a mini-art show.