May 29, 2011

Home Hunting

The free breakfast line for the homeless the city of Los Angeles wants shut down is located near artsy lofts. 

In the late 90s, the city pumped public money into private loft developments on the edge of Skid Row, and people with money started moving in. 

Forget about the moral question of using public money to drive out a population of people because they are poor, since that sort of thing plays no part of public policy. Neither does race. The city would rather have pretty privileged people of whatever color living downtown than people of whatever shade pushing shopping carts.

For the record, the people who have moved into the expensive lofts on the edges of Skid Row are of all colors, though mostly white. The mentally ill homeless people being driven out of the neighborhood with all the free services are all colors, though mostly black.

The police want the free oatmeal and coffee line shut down and say they have received a complaint from nearby residents about the line. So over the past month I have been speaking with people who live in the nearby lofts, some while on their way to work, some while they are walking their dogs to the new dog park across the street, which Officer Jack Richter was instrumental in creating, according to the dog owners. Richter is the officer leading the shut-down of the free food giveaways in Skid Row, including Catholic Workers’ oatmeal and coffee line near the dog park.

I’ve talked with seven people altogether. Four supported the Catholic Workers' breakfast giveaway, which lasts for 40 minutes twice a week, saying it was a good thing and very orderly. Two didn’t have an opinion. One didn’t like it. His name is Greg. I spoke with him a couple weeks ago, and then last week after Greg complained to the authorities across the street about the breakfast line, I spoke with him again.

Greg said the homeless wouldn’t congregate near his building if we didn’t give out food. He said he appreciates the effort we put in to pick up trash, but he doesn’t like having to step around homeless people on his way to work. Sometimes after breakfast is served and we leave, Greg has seen a homeless man urinate.

“What you guys are doing is good,” Greg said. “But nobody wants to see someone urinate outside their home.”

Yes, who can accurately call Skid Row home? Does it belong to the poor and homeless who have resided in Skid Row for more than a hundred years? Or is it home for those who have money and began moving in in the late 90s?

It would be nice if it were both of their homes, which it is.



This is Part 10 of the city's effort to criminalize feeding the homeless in Skid Row. Here's Part 11.

11 comments:

lucychili said...

our communities are disjointed arent they
cities especially perhaps

Brian Miller said...

but how long will that last...money will trump it, for the city and for those that moved in....

Wine and Words said...

Greg has a point. You have a point. The homeless have a point. Nobody really wants to step over a daily reminder of all that is wrong, all that could - in the blink of an eye - be how the table of our lives turn. No one really wants to see a guy take a dump outside their office window first thing in the morning, nor do they want to go take out the trash and find several people rooting through it. No one WANTS people to be homeless. I don't know the answers. But I wonder what would happen if the two sides of the "home" sat down and had a non-defensive discussion? What would happen if they worked it out themselves? What would happen....if they got to KNOW each other????

Sent my copy of the book to you last week. Hope you get it!

~Annie

The Empress said...

What a tough question.

I know, for me, it would involve lots of soul searching and thinking, and doing the right thing vs what I would "prefer."

Lots of REAL thinking..

Claudia said...

they do it here as well..pumping money into "difficult" places to make them save again..not easy..for all involved parts...

Mark Dixon said...

There used to be a number of churches not far from the Row. For many years they struggled mightily with the problems on their doorstep, until they discovered the elegantly simple solution of moving their doorstep to places where problems were few. Some of those churches still thrive today, but in the suburban foothills, not downtown.

ed pilolla said...

why not allow a breakfast line that lasts for 40 minutes twice a week to continue? it's a good thing for the most marginalized of people. becuz someone takes a piss on the sidewalk once in a while, that means a hundred people can't have oatmeal and coffee.

ed pilolla said...

this is part of the immersion process, becoming part of the catholic worker to an extent. it's inevitable. i hear the homeless thank us for the breakfast, and i know a lot of the people we serve really look forward to the free meal and seeing their friends. for a lot of the guys downtown, a good day is not interacting with the police, or getting a square meal, or not having their stuff stolen or confiscated by the city while they are peeing inside the mission. after that happens, urinating in public becomes the first option.

i'll be moving out of the lacw house june 12, and i hope to continue following the coffee line saga after i move out, but i'll have to see what my accountant says:)

Su-sieee! Mac said...

I've often wondered if a city designated a large building or two specifically for the homeless to come for shelter and food, run and maintained by the homeless, would that resolve the annoyance of public peeing and dumping and walking over sleeping bodies on sidewalks. The other question is if something like this was created, would all the homeless take advantage of it? I really don't think it would be difficult for city governments to create such places. Or, for that matter, churches or corporations. But, then that would be too simple an answer.

In the late 80s/early 90s, the mayor or police chief of San Francisco had the most insane idea of gathering all the homeless and moving them to the next county.

ed pilolla said...

it's easy to solve homelessness, actually. what cities are doing is building something called permanent supportive housing, which puts the services in the buildings that the tenants live in. this sort of thing has worked for 80 percent of the people who enroll or thereabouts, according to the data i was looking at a couple years ago when i was researching all this. new york has done a lot of this. other cities too. los angeles hasn't done much of it at all. the city has thrown the money at the lapd instead. cycling people thru jail and the missions costs more than building housing, but that's the direction the city goes. what the lapd is doing in skid row basically is putting enough pressure on the homeless population so that the sidewalks don't become overrun with the homeless as they were prior to the "safer cities" crackdown.

Jaco said...

A food line twice a week, and they want to shut it down? Sad. No less than tragic. Its' funny, America will declare war on terror, war on drugs, but not a war on homelessness. Guess there's no profit to be made off the homeless.