Page 11 - LA Weekly 112218
P. 11

Reverend Andy Bales is sitting in his slightly chaotic office — the walls full of certificates, an aquarium in the corner — and talking about how the public
neglects the homeless community in Skid Row. Bales is the CEO of Union Rescue Mission, the largest and oldest homeless shelter of the city. Two years ago, Bales lost his right leg due to flesh-eating bacteria on Skid Row.
It was only then, he says, that the city de- clared a state of emergency for the infamous section of downtown Los Angeles. “Actually, they need to declare the state of emergency for everybody who is out on the streets,” Bales says angrily. “Skid Row is the greatest man-made human disaster in the U.S., and it´s been here for longer than 127 years.” He pauses, then adds: “Right now it is the worst it has ever been. It is a crisis of epic proportions.”
Indeed, nowhere in the United States is the concentration of unsheltered individuals as high as on Skid Row. The numbers are shocking: On any given day in this 54-block area in downtown, there are around 4,300 homeless people on the streets. According to recent counts, the numbers have slightly decreased, but Bales and other experts doubt these statistics are accurate. From his daily experience, Bales says, “There is no evidence at all that the numbers have decreased in any way.”
In any case, even if the numbers have gone down by 3 or 5 percent, Skid Row is still the epicenter of the country’s homelessness cri- sis. Why is that? L.A. Weekly looks into the history of Skid Row to try to understand what solutions could help solve this epic crisis.
The genesis of Skid Row lies in the early 20th century, when travelers from all over the country were drawn to the downtown area. The nearby railways provided jobs for many people. Little by little the neigh- borhood became a center for many of the poor and marginalized people of the city, who found a home in cheap, single-room occupancy hotels. This became even more the case in the 1970s, after Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, put in new legislation that deinstitutionalized hospi- tals serving individuals with severe mental illnesses.
With nowhere to go, many of the people forced out of mental hospitals were drawn to Skid Row, the only place in the city that provided services and shelters. The situation worsened in 2000, after several thousand residential hotel apartments were destroyed, according to the Skid Row Housing Trust. People lost their homes and were forced onto the streets.
Skid Row became the home of the home- less, but a home without safety. Eleven mur- ders occurred in Skid Row last year, and a study found that 40 percent of unhoused women in the area had experienced ( 12 »
More than money and affordable housing, it will take a collective change of heart to end L.A.’s homelessness problem
LA WEEKLY | November 23 - 29, 2018 | WWW.LAWEEKLY.COM

   9   10   11   12   13