Page 15 - LA Weekly 112218
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up on the street, people are OD-ing. I’m see- ing a lot more young people. It just seems to be overlooked. I always think of Skid Row as an eyesore to people in L.A. They like to look all around it but they’ve just pushed it to this little community. Like 12,000 homeless people in 4 square miles? That’s absurd.”
By now he knows the grid — the blocks run by gangs, segregated by race; the streets where people go for heroin, meth, crack, and those “further back where more prostitution goes on.” He’s acquainted, from a cautious distance, with the underground economy, social ecosystem, the justice of the streets — “There’s a lot more going on down there than the surface of what it looks like.” And he knows better than to go at night.
Through it all, he’s perpetually gutted by how badly the crisis is mishandled.
“Three public toilets you pay 50 cents to go into? Where do these people go to the bathroom? Can we at least set up a building so people can go to the bathroom, shower indoors? They don’t have anywhere to use a restroom or privacy,” he said, acknowledging the handful of mobile showers but insisting there should be more.
“I’ve heard people say nobody starves in Skid Row. And there are lots of missions
down there feeding people. What I don’t think there is enough of are shelters for women, who I think have it the worst in Skid Row,” he says, pointing to the rampant exploitation of women with mental health or substance abuse issues, as well as the obvious lack of security.
He says what we’re all thinking.
“Something that always bothers me in this town is there’s all these celebrities who’ve made tons of money and they all like to take on activist causes ... but there’s this thing in our backyard that needs so much attention. And I don’t see anybody down there doing anything really profound, or putting a lot of money, or using their voice as somebody famous to come down there and say, ‘Hey, this is where we should put some attention.’ Why is that not happening in this city, of all places?”
For every photo he takes, he knows there are hundreds he can’t get. But Skid Row doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, and neither is he.
“I would like to document Skid Row with photos, better than anyone ever has. And yeah, just keep doing it, compiling it,” Joe says. “I just think I can get in there better than anybody has.”
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