The Life and Death Battle from the Front Lines of our Streets

By Lisa Morgan

Coachella Valley had a total of 521 homeless individuals reported, based upon a homeless count in 2013. As of 2015 that number was reduced to 364. While Indio dramatically decreased from an estimated 256 in 2013 to 92 in 2015, Palm Springs increased from 60 individuals in 2013 to 118 in 2015. Overall, based on the count the number of homeless in the valley has decreased by close to 30%.  (2015 Riverside County Homeless Count)

Street Life Project (SLP), a local outreach that has been caring for and helping the valley’s homeless transition into a productive, self-supporting life off the streets, has been doing their part to decrease those numbers for the last 3 years.  Still, out there on the streets three days a week, going to the homeless where they are (under the bridges, into the tree lines along the freeways and desert camp sites), the needs seem to only increase.  The stories of lives being redeemed reach inspirational highs, but the losses are just as heartbreakingly low.  It is a race against time for some.  Recently, Street Life Project held a celebration of life for seven of their homeless friends, attended by, now new Mayor of Palm Springs, Robert Moon.  Because of Street Life Project, these lives are noted, documented and remembered.  The ultimate goal, however, is to breathe new life and hope into those who have been beaten down by life before they are forever lost.  Street Life Project is succeeding in their goal for roughly 10 individuals a month.


Richard was a young man addicted to meth for many years, living on the streets in Indio. SLP spoke to him several times about going to Coachella Valley Rescue Mission (CVRM).  Eventually he did. He was able to overcome his addiction, find faith, and has been on a remarkable path. He has had a couple of lapses along the way, but every time he fell, he got back up. He graduated the program at CVRM, then college, and now has an HVAC certification. Paying it forward, he has also been instrumental in going out with SLP and encouraging his still homeless friends to make life changes.  Now, with two jobs, he is on his way to finding permanent housing.

Jackie and Gina were homeless and happened to be looking through the garbage when they heard SLP on the loud speaker inviting people to come over and eat. In tears, Jackie told us about his living situation. The next few days SLP took them house hunting, and were able to find an apartment within a week. SLP surprised them by furnishing their apartment for them.  They have been living in their new place for two months, during which Jackie was given a promotion for being such a hard worker.  His boss also gave him a truck.


Denee was living on the streets of Palm Springs for several years. She came from a wealthy family who had means to support her, but she suffered from mental illness. They tried for years to help her, but she was convinced that her calling was to help those who were on the streets. SLP would talk to her and provide her with fellowship and food each week.  They also offered help getting her off the streets, but she declined.  Tragically this year, Denee was found murdered.  SLP was heartbroken. She is one of many mentally ill and homeless on the streets of Palm Springs who are not receiving the kind of services that keep them from becoming a tragic statistic.

Scot was living on the streets of Indio. The man many called the father of BMX racing was homeless, living in a tent in a field in Indio. SLP spoke with him on several occasions about getting off the streets, but as many of them say, he felt that he was called to be out there helping his homeless brothers and sisters. He had been a commentator on ESPN, invented several bikes and made lots of money, but his addiction lead him to life on the streets. He was found dead in his tent just weeks before the launching of a new bike that was sure to net him a huge amount of money.

“What I wish for the Coachella Valley is that we can become the role model for others to follow,” shared Christian Jelmberg, founder of SLP.  “I want us to be the community that has so much love for each other that it produces unquestionable impact on even the most broken.  It will take businesses, organizations and even churches working together.   It is time for change and unity, which is why I am asking those that want to be part of a powerful movement to step up to the plate and be part of a legacy that will literally save lives.”

A benefit concert will be held to support SLP in their efforts this Friday, November 13th starting at 8 p.m. at Schmidy’s Tavern, Palm Desert (on the corner of Fred Waring Drive and Highway 111).  Headlining the concert will be Nashville songwriter, Travis Meadows.  Meadows is the songwriter behind Dierks Bentley’s song, “Riser”, Jake Owen’s song “What We Ain’t Got” and many more.  Joining him will be CCMA Entertainer of the Year and ACM Female Best Female Vocalist nominee, Jann Browne, who has performed with Asleep at the Wheel and Emmylou Harris.  Cisco and Dewey, Grammy Museum celebrated session players for their work with Gerry Goffin, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and more will perform as well, along with singer/songwriters Rick Shelley and Blue Eyed Lucy.  There is a suggested donation at the door of $10, but in the spirit of Street Life Project, no one will be turned away.

To learn more about Street Life Project and how you can help, visit their website: or call them at 760-702-4944