Ex-gang member earns master's, creates nonprofit to help homeless in Los Angeles

ByEric Resendiz KABC logo
Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Ex-gang member earns master's, creates nonprofit to help homeless on Skid Row
An ex-gang member from Huntington Park, who served five prison terms, turned his life around and is now helping others. He went back to school to get his master's and created a nonprofit to help the homeless on Skid Row.

SKID ROW, LOS ANGELES -- For the past six years, an ex-gang member, Michael Lopez, has been feeding the homeless on Los Angeles' Skid Row.

"I asked God, 'Clean me up. Clean me up, and I'll do what you want me to do,'" said Lopez, who has served five prison terms. "This is what he blessed me, with a nonprofit, which is Mission E.C.H.O., Ex-Cholo Helping Others."

Lopez said his turning point in life happened when he was behind bars.

"I got tired of going nowhere. I was in prison when my mom died," he said. "I wasn't able to come home for the services. Stuff hit me hard, I just got tired."

Now he's helping those who live on the streets by handing out food, clothing and other necessities -- things he needed at one point in his life.

"The fact that my addiction had me homeless, my addiction had me at the bottom of the barrel, so I got tired," Lopez said. "Once I was able to, you know, put my head together ... I went back to school. I graduated with both a bachelor's and a master's. But I never forgot about the people who are still struggling."

Among those who benefit from Mission E.C.H.O. are a single mother and her four kids.

"I'm not so fortunate to go and buy any and everything that they want," said the mother, who didn't want to share her name. "This is helping me, this is helping them. This is making the kids happy."

Lopez helps those in need thanks to the donations he receives from all over the country and with volunteers from all over the state.

"It brings me to tears sometimes because I wish my mom was here to see it," Lopez said. "We can change. People can change. You have to want it, you have to do the footwork."

He graduated from Argosy University in 2014 with a master's degree in forensic psychology and currently works at the Orange County Mental Health Association.