Skid Row Mission to Make its Rose Parade Debut, With a Message

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The Union Rescue Mission now has more clients than at any time in its history. Its Rose Parade entry is meant to raise awareness. (Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

In the winter of 1890, a Pasadena hunt club eager to promote the young city as a temperate winter paradise organized a January sports contest with a parade of flower-adorned floats.

The following year, a horse-drawn “gospel wagon” rolled onto the dirt streets of downtown Los Angeles offering “food, clothing and salvation” to saloon denizens.

The region morphed into a sprawling metropolis in the decades that followed, but those early efforts at civic improvement endured and became two of the area’s most venerable institutions: Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses and skid row’s Union Rescue Mission.

This year, the mission will make its first appearance in the Rose Parade. A group from the shelter will ride the route Monday in a replica of the gospel wagon to highlight its 125th anniversary and serve as a reminder that poverty and addiction still accompany L.A.’s enviable climate and flora.

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