Penn Serves LA Beautifies Roof for The Skid Row Housing Trust

By Michelle Wattana, C’09, and Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16

Penn Serves LA The Skid Row Housing Trust Los Angeles volunteering

On Saturday, April 21st, the Penn Serves LA crew partnered with The Skid Row Housing Trust, where our very own Anne Dobson, C’08, serves as the Vice President of Philanthropy! Spearheaded by Penn Serves board members Jane Gutman and Irene Park, we met at the ground level of The Six Apartments in the Westlake/MacArthur Park neighborhood. Our team gathered water, snacks, and tools and listened to Anne’s informative pep talk for the day’s activities before we headed up to beautify the building’s rooftop through re-planting drought-resistant succulents.

Penn Serves LA The Skid Row Housing Trust volunteering Los Angeles

The Six building where we planted on the rooftop.

Penn Serves LA The Skid Row Housing Trust Los Angeles volunteering

Our group of Penn Serves LA volunteers

The Skid Row Housing Trust provides permanent supportive housing so that people who have experienced homelessness, prolonged extreme poverty, poor health, disabilities, mental illness and/or addiction can lead safe, stable lives in wellness. Many of these tenants are formerly homeless veterans. The Trust develops, manages, and operates permanent and supportive housing for its residents, and while a number of its buildings such as The Six are not actually on Skid Row itself, these buildings are beautiful, light-filled, open structures that in their very essence, exude what The Trust aims to provide – not only a place to get a safe night’s sleep, but hope, calm, and positivity during one’s greatest time of need.

Penn Serves LA The Skid Row Housing Trust Los Angeles volunteering

Penn Serves LA volunteers plant succulents

Penn Serves LA The Skid Row Housing Trust Los Angeles volunteering

On the roof planting succulents

The Six houses 55 tenants. All units in the building were single tenant units, as the targeted tenant is the single adult, with the average age of a tenant being 52-53 years of age. The units in the Trust’s buildings are subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). The accommodations are provided for as long as a tenant needs, allowing as much time as necessary to heal, and various support services are provided, depending on each tenant’s need. Such services include case management, medical care, substance abuse counseling, technology assistance, benefits support, and full support for relocating from the streets or emergency shelters, and into housing. It is paramount that those who have been homeless can receive all the support they need to make the transition from homelessness to independence.

With this in mind, our team eagerly headed up to the rooftop where we were met with gorgeous views of Los Angeles – from the downtown skyline to the Hollywood sign and everything in between. As hot as it was, we got down to business! Armed with gloves and shovels, the Penn Serves crew planted a vast array of succulents into squares of soil that spanned the entire length of the rooftop. Everyone was hard at work, and some residents even stopped by to chat and help!

Penn Serves LA The Skid Row Housing Trust Los Angeles volunteering

Beautiful views of downtown Los Angeles from the roof.

In-hand with our previous event, making mosaic art through Piece by Piece, some pieces were brought to further beautify the rooftop garden. A few pieces were made fresh by volunteers on-site at the rooftop, and it was really wonderful to be able to link our events for the same cause. The beads and tiles used to make the mosaics really glistened and sparkled in the sun, adding a really cheerful touch to the little garden we had just created!

Penn Serves LA The Skid Row Housing Trust Los Angeles volunteering Piece by Piece

Making mosaics for the garden with Piece by Piece

Our crew had a wonderful time working our hearts out, chatting with one another while planting those succulents and piecing mosaics together. Before we knew it, we finished our tasks with time to spare! As our work came to an end, we were able to enjoy a fantastic view and the fruits of our labor. The little plants and mosaics added just the right touch to spruce up the space! The succulents, in particular, were the perfect plant for the job, as they are symbols of resilience, perseverance, and hope, and possess the ability to thrive under tough conditions. We were all reminded that afternoon, that all of us have a right to live in peace and beauty, and that even just a little light in our day can brighten things up immensely. And it was our sincerest wish that the residents of The Six would be able to enjoy the serene rooftop whenever they needed.

Penn Serves LA The Skid Row Housing Trust Los Angeles volunteering Piece by Piece mosaics

Working on mosaics for the garden

Penn Serves LA The Skid Row Housing Trust Los Angeles volunteering Piece by Piece mosaics

Penn Serves LA The Skid Row Housing Trust Los Angeles volunteering Piece by Piece mosaics

The finished mosaic ball for the garden

Penn Serves LA logo volunteering with Penn Alumni in Los Angeles

Upcoming Events

About Penn Serves LA


Penn Serves LA impacts the Los Angeles community by engaging University of Pennsylvania alumni, parents and families in meaningful community service activities.

Since our founding in 2012, we have done everything from serving meals to the homeless to restoring the environment to fixing homes. Six times annually, we find another great opportunity to learn about interesting nonprofits, lend a hand and enjoy a fun experience with fellow alumni.

Join Us

We invite the Penn community in Los Angeles (alumni, parents, and kids) to join us at a future event, to help spread the word and to help us plan future activities. Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, and help fellow Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Contact Us

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

The Penn Serves LA Team

Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Michal Clements, W’84 | Justin Gordon, W’05 | Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Jamie Kendall, W’04 | Irene Park, C’05 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Michelle Wattana, C’09 | Denise Winner, W’83, PAR’21

Read about our previous events:



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Filed under Jane G., Penn Serves, Volunteering

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