Los Angeles legend, “Father Dollar Bill,” dies

Los Angeles legend, “Father Dollar Bill,” dies November 22, 2011

One of the angels of the City of Angels is gone.


Funeral services were pending Monday for the Rev. Maurice Chase, a Catholic priest known as “Father Dollar Bill” for his holiday giveaways of $1 bills to the homeless on Skid Row.

Chase, 92, died Sunday night at his home in Los Angeles after a battle with cancer, according to his nephew, Robert Boyd.

“He was a really great, colorful, wonderful man,” he said.

Chase was a fixture on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles on holidays such as Easter and Thanksgiving. The homeless and poor would line up for blocks as Chase would hand out $1 bills — or sometimes larger denominations to the particularly needy.

On Easter, Chase stood outside the Salvation Army shelter and handed out about $20,000, much of which was donated by celebrities including Bob Newhart and Dolores Hope. Last Thanksgiving, he handed out about $15,000.

“I met him and knew his work,” said Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Paul Vernon, head of detectives in the Central Division, which includes Skid Row. “He was a good man and an institution in Skid Row. He will be missed not for his money but for the example that he set and the life that he lived.

“… He certainly gave with his heart. He was a very caring, sincere man who lived his life consistent with his beliefs to help the most disadvantaged,” Vernon said. “I know he had been handing out dollar bills going back over 30 years.”

Below is a short video about his life and work.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…

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7 responses to “Los Angeles legend, “Father Dollar Bill,” dies”

  1. I wish we still had priests like this. Our church would be so much richer for it.

    May he now be with our Lord.

  2. I certainly understand his motivation for this. But a fellow parishioner who had battled a substance abuse problem told me that the problem with giving cash away to panhandlers is that all too often you are just helping fund an addiction. I used to get hit up by panhandlers asking for odd amounts of money “for bus fare”. I started giving them bus tokens instead. But this fellow parishioner told me that even those could easily be converted to cash, and therefore to alcohol and drugs. I remember a couple of times when a panhandler accosted me for money outside a convenience store, and instead of giving money I went into the store and bought him something to eat. Handing out money might seem like the charitable thing to do, but, again, all too often you might be funding an addiction and therefore doing more harm than good.

  3. Hmm. I admit to not knowing much about him, but, did he “hand out” anything besides money, which I gather he got from others? Plus the time he spent there, I suppose. That counts for something. I’ve no problem with giving money to skidrow; it’s my obligation to give (of my OWN resources) and it’s theirs to spend it wisely–however seldom that might actually happen. But what was priestly about his handing out money? I ask sincerely, admitting I know little about him.

  4. Okay, I’ve seen the tape. It really was his time that he was giving away. The $ 1 got people’s attention, yes, but he was spending a few minutes talking to people whom most others ignore. That works, seems to me.

  5. As far as I’m concerned it is not the one $1 dollar bill that he is handing out but the fact that he realizes that these are people God’s people and that he spent time with them and in the few moments that he spent with them, he was able to show them self worth and a spiritual element also help them to realize that they are Gods children.

    This is what I meant by “I wish we had more like him, instead of certain priest’s bishops today going at warped speed backward away from Vatican II this priest is living and working the gospel in the ways of St. Francis of Assisi.

  6. Rev Chase was a frequent visitor to our home, he baptized me in 1958, and he had a affectionate nickname of “Uncle Mauri” within my family.

    Soon after he began the Sunday mission of handing out dollars, I asked him about the idea of maybe supporting addiction, and we had several conversations about it. Now, the Reverend was one amazing guy; he had previously trained for a career in law, and after seminary school this was a man who really understood how to think!

    Rev Chase explained that what was really going on was a mission of hope and of providing options; of re-providing for each of these persons some small new measure of concrete personal choice and empowerment within their lives where the idea of personal control and choice had come under attack.
    Sure, he said, a person could take that dollar to buy a wine or beer, or something. But, to those to whom this gift made the most spiritual difference, there it needed to be for the reason that he had found that such persons may otherwise have had nothing meaningful remaining at all – with no sense of any power or choice remaining in the world, and whom could thus become forever lost.

    As a man who understood hope and help as a numbers game, he knew that to succeed in bringing a message of options, responsibility, and restoral of motivation to some, his message of love to all was still a win-win. His mission was brilliant.

    One of the Reverend’s first and best friends in Hollywood was Irene Dunne. My grandmother saw a lot in this man, and welcomed him into her home, family, and circle of entertainment industry friends during the late 1950’s. She saw the goodness of this particular man, describing him as “a Good priest !” ….with the emphasis on “Good”. This man of God really had the right stuff; a priest very successful at reminding everyone what the big idea of God’s love is all about.

    Rev. Maurice Chase showed Los Angeles an enlightened path respectful and loving to those on the skids. Perhaps someone can continue the mission

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