CrossFit Echo Park Teams Up with ER Doc, Donates Dozens of Shoes to Skid Rows’ Homeless Population

January 14, 2021 by
Courtesy of Luke Palmisano
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Three weeks ago, Los Angeles-based CrossFit Echo Park coach Angela Armijo approached Dr. Luke Palmisano, a doctor at Dignity Health California Hospital and long-time member of the gym, with an idea to collect “gently used” shoes and donate them to the hospital to give to homeless patients who frequently visit the emergency room.

  • Within a couple weeks, the community at CrossFit Echo Park had collected 43 pairs of shoes that are still in great shape, explained Palmisano, the Emergency Department Director at the hospital. 
  • “We all have closets full of lightly used Metcons in perfectly good condition, and in our ER we have such a high percentage of homeless people who come in without shoes. For years we have been giving them hospital socks, so to be able to give shoes to them, everyone wins,” he said. 
Courtesy of Luke Palmisano

Some context: Dignity Health California Hospital, located in downtown LA, is the closest hospital to Skid Row, “one of the world’s most in-need populations,” Palmisano explained. It’s a population riddled with psychiatric disease, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. 

  • Another lesser known, but common problem among Skid Row’s homeless is poor foot health. From bad blisters or ingrown nails, to trench foot from feet spending too much time in a wet environment, to athletes foot and bone spurs, the problems are diverse. Often the situation gets so bad it requires surgery, Palmisano explained.
  • “Or we’ll see patients who step on glass or pebbles and these foreign bodies stay in their foot, and they have to have them removed…or other times people who are a size nine have shoved their feet into a size seven because it’s the only pair of shoes they have,” he said. 

The big picture: The shoes were delivered to the hospital last week, and within 24 hours, they had already handed out five pairs of shoes to patients who came in without them, convincing Palmisano they must continue the shoe program, and possibly even expand it to hospitals nearby. 

  • Though donating shoes is just a small drop in the bucket, it’s an important one, Palmisano said. “Especially now, when so many people are in need,” he said. 

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