First, the facts of the story and below that - some personal comments:
Two Inglewood men were arrested today for allegedly attacking two homeless men with baseball bats while they were sleeping on a street in downtown Los Angeles, Police Chief William J. Bratton said.
The suspects, William Orantes and Justin Brumfield, both 19, told officers they had recently seen the DVD "Bum Fights" -— in which homeless people are videotaped fighting each other — and wanted to do some "bum bashing" of their own, police said.
About 1½ hours later, a private security guard saw two men beating a homeless man, Ernest Adams, with bats near 3rd and Flower streets. The guard followed the suspects, who had gotten into their car, and Los Angeles Police Department officers soon caught up with them.
Officers recovered two aluminum bats and a replica firearm from the car.
Adams, who was described as "elderly," was in critical condition at County-USC Medical Center with severe head trauma.
First, working on the problems of those living on the streets is one of the reasons I moved downtown. And, as an all too rare successful example, a week ago a person I have been working with for a long time, finally accepted the transitional housing I arranged for him until his post-drug rehab parole is up and he can move back with his brother in the Midwest and re-start his life.
But another person I have been working with for over six months has some mental problems that make it hard for him to accept the help he needs. So in a homelessness services meeting at the Union Rescue Mission yesterday, I spoke with the BID outreach team that has been trying to get him off the streets (at my request) so we could meet with him together later this week to convince him to move into the offered housing and he could be eligible for job placement.
Then, during a meeting at Jan Perry's office today, I obliquely mentioned him to two of Jan's aides since Jan was not there since she was at a press conference condemning the senseless attacks of the previous night.
I mention this because the man's name is... Ernest Adams. The man in the LA Times story now in critical condition in a hospital.
And I can only wonder if I had just pushed him a little harder, done a little more arguing with him over the past few months, that I might have persuaded him to move into the room that was already waiting for him.
But it also demonstrates that (as Steve Lopez has finally discovered), it is not the lack of housing that creates the majority of chronic homelessness. It is drug and substance abuse along with often serious mental and emotional problems. And it is only by dealing with these individuals as individuals and by taking the time to deal with their very specific and unique problems that we can help them.