SOUTH LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) —  The holidays can be tough for many people, especially for the homeless.

For the first time in the history of the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row, more women and children live there than men – 750 of the 1,000 residents are women and children, according to the homeless shelter.

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The Mission is home for the Whitlow family during this holiday season. Andrew, Crystal and their three young daughters have been without their own place to live for two years.

Crystal works in the food industry. But she said child care costs more than she can earn. Andrew works at Home Depot.

Nine-year-old Niya said what hurts most is seeing her two little sisters having to live this way. “They should be like in a house or something while they’re so little.”

And since her dad has to sleep on a different floor with the men, she misses him tucking her in at night.

“I just always want to be with daddy. But I really can’t,” Niya said. Her christmas wish is “to spend a whole lot of time with my family.”

“It’s hard because I’m used to kissing my baby girls at goodnight when I come home from work, and I can’t do that,” Andrew said.

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Union Rescue Mission CEO Andy Bales calls homeless an epidemic and said something has to be done right now.

Bales said if the city will lease him one of its empty buildings for $1, he will be able to provide $27 million he is in the process of raising to provide food, shelter, job placement and medical services for the homeless.

“We could do it right now if we had the empty buildings,” Bales said.

Andrew said his challenge is to stay focused and to care for his wife and children. “They’re my world. This is the reason why I live to make sure that they make it,” he said.

According to the Mission’s website, more than 2,000 men and women live in tents and boxes on the sidewalks of Skid Row, and about 47,000 people in L.A. County experience homeless on any given night.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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Click here if you would like to help the Union Rescue Mission help the homeless.