Saturday, March 11, 2006

LA Weekly's Lies About Kids On Skid Row!

http://www.laweekly.com/features/12829/coming-of-age-in-the-mouth-of-madness/

So I pick up a copy of this week's LA WEEKLY and on the cover is a familiar looking kid I have seen around. Then when I saw his name, I recognized him as the kid who had made a film about Skid Row. I then started to read the article by Sam Slovick and while I had some misgivings about the first line - more on that later - when I saw that the article opened talking about the kids at the Union Rescue Mission - I thought - great!

The local media was finally going to talk about what is going right on Skid Row.

This is because the Union Rescue Mission last year closed escrow on an incredible ranch in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest - over 70 acres of heaven. And the 10 buildings on the ranch are going to be converted into transitional housing for up to 250 single mothers and children where they can live off of Skid Row before they are transitioned back into permanent housing.

http://www.urm.org/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID312006CHID630778CIID2103146,00.html

But since a handful of NIMBY's who live miles - yes, miles - from this secluded canyon ranch are giving the project some grief - I felt it was great that the LA Weekly was going to tell LA about this wonderful project and how it should be supported.

So I started reading - and reading - and reading - and reading... and there was - nothing. Absolutely - nothing about this project.

Instead, the entire article was devoted to bemoaning the fact that there was zero - yes - zero - political will to do anything to get women and children off of Skid Row. And not a single word about the URM program that is about to get so many of the kids and their mothers off of Skid Row - even though the Union Rescue Mission was the setting for both the opening - and the closing of the article.

Then, besides completely ignoring the single most important aspect of kids on Skid Row - the story was also filled with so many factual inaccuracies that it calls into question everything in the story.

To list just a few errors (and I am being more than charitable in calling these 'errors'):

Some live - off the radar - in makeshift apartments - small 10-by-10-foot rooms with no kitchens or bathrooms in buildings that don't require IDs, credit checks or security deposits. These are usually shared by a couple of single moms with four or five kids each.

The article states that single moms not staying in shelters usually share 10-by-10 rooms with other single moms with an average of 9 to 10 people in each of these ten-by-ten rooms with no kitchen or bath.

Well, other than the sheer physical impossibly of this being usual - the amount of money single moms with four or five kids have can get would allow each of them to get a lot more than a 10-by-10 room. And when I asked around today if this type of arrangement was at all 'usual' - I was met with laughter.

You could throw a rock from the Ford Hotel where Franklin stays and hit a sleeping senator in silk pajamas staying at a five-star hotel if the window was open and your aim was true... well, you might need a slingshot, but you get the point.

Well, yes, I DO get the point. The nearest hotel that any senator might stay in - much less a five star hotel - is the Biltmore. And that is well over one mile - about sixteen blocks - from the Ford Hotel. Now if he had just said a stone's throw and meant that as a metaphor, that would be wrong - but at least barely understandable as hyperbole. But to them modify that you might need a sling shot to propel a rock for - 16 blocks, is clearly meant to deceive the reader about the geography of Skid Row.

But what about my friend Joey camped out in the Midnight Mission's courtyard in the middle of the festering wound known as City Central?

City Central? There is no such neighborhood in Los Angeles. The business center of the downtown is called Central City and the larger Skid Row area is called Central City East.

In discussing the people he sees in the courtyard of the Midnight Mission:

All appear to be in need of a bath and a good 10 years of intensive psychiatric treatment, and even then you probably wouldn't want to leave them unsupervised around the kids.

Now I know a number of these people - and while they have battled alcohol and drugs, most of them do not need - nor do they appear to need - the 10 years of intensive psychiatric treatment the writer claims they need. And to suggest that even then, it would be unsafe to allow your kids around any of them after ten years of treatment is absurd. But this is typical of the way the writer unfairly demonizes the homeless in this article.

Another example of that is when he tags the kids of Skid Row as - 'Skids' - a term I have never heard before and a term none of the people I talked to today who work with these kids has ever heard before. However, one woman who does work with these kids on a daily basis, said it was shameful that the writer would tarnish these kids with a slur like that. Later, when he talked about the mother of one of the kids he profiles - he referred to her as - 'a walking disaster'.

Now you imagine how traumatized that kid will be when he reads that description of his mother in the LA Weekly? If that does not qualify as child abuse - I don't know what does.

His description of the project - Safe Sleep Room - at the Midnight Mission: It's relatively clean, but it's stinky and creepy and dank.

I have been in that room many times, and it is not relatively clean - it is immaculately clean and it is less than a year old. Granted many of the homeless have not showered, but the room itself is clean and odorless - and this spacious, beautifully designed room is in no way - creepy - unless you feel that just being around the homeless is creepy (which he evidently does) - and the room is in no way the dank, which means, overly damp or humid.

But, lastly, his biggest lie is to hide from the reader the truth of what is happening on Skid Row; a new program large enough to hold every single mother and her children currently sleeping in shelters on Skid Row. And yet - here are his quotes about the lack political will to do anything about getting kids off of Skid Row:

... compassion in lieu of any legitimate political will to get children off Skid Row.

It's going to take lots of that famous political will. I've been living down here for a while now. I'm not sure the prognosis is good.

Eleanor Roosevelt once famously made a distinction between those who merely curse the darkness and those willing to light a candle.

Well, cursing the darkness is no longer enough for the LA Weekly.

When the Weekly discovered someone has at last lit a candle for the children of Skid Row - they feel compelled to blow it out.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brady,

You missed the mark on your response. The article was good for the most part, but I agree that the reporter used some language that was not appropriate. But, what about Mayor V not willing to talk about the article. You cannot deny the fact that these kids live there; they were brought here from somewhere else, they were BORN on skid row. And, to relocate them, is probably not the best idea either. Whether we like it or not, Central City East is a community!

Jim Evans
Los Angeles

Anonymous said...

FYI. In my response above, I meant to say that these kids were not brought here from somewhere else, but rather they were BORN on skid row.

JE

Anonymous said...

^ Kids shouldn't be relocated from Skid Row? Why? Because it's such a wonderful, appropriate place to call home? If so, then their parents shouldn't gripe about the area being a dangerous dump.

Brady Westwater said...

Jim --

First, thank you for your comments, but I do not feel that I at all missed the point of the arictle whihch was - that tehre is no political will to help the kids Skid Row - or to get them off of Skid Row, which is what the author clearly felt was needed.

And that was a knowing lie as for the past year the big news on the kids of Skid Row is that a new home has been bought to get them off of Skid Row - but the author chose to hid that fact from his readers.

As for you assertion that the kids in the article were bron on SKid Row - the aricle clearly stated that none of them were born there - but that they were all brought there. And I have never met any kid who was born and raised on Skid Row- nor have I ever heard of any kid who wanted to stay on Skid Row.

Now I am not saying that there are not exceptions, but that is not the case of any of the kids mentioned in the article.

As for the Mayor refusing to met with this 'journalist', it is not the Mayor's job to give private interviews with every reporter who wants to talk with him - or he would never get anything done. And, clearly, any writer who would threaten a Mayor by saying either talk to me or else I can't be responsible for what I will say about you - is not going to be mistaken for a serious journalist.

In fact, his admitting he tried to blackmail the Mayor into giving him a private interview was the most damning admission of the article.

Anonymous said...

To call it irresponsible journalism is to give it too much credit. This is a propaganda essay by someone with a political bone to pick. It's the kind of Westside-liberal guilt writing that starts with a conclusion, then twists the facts to meet that conclusion.

CCE is a work in progress. Everybody agrees that conditions are generally bad in Skid Row, that the environment is not a healthy one. But to willfully ignore real efforts to reform the neighborhood, just in order to "make a point", is more than just disingenuous, it borders on slander. The name-calling of the kids was the worse part, IMO.

Anonymous said...

I doubt the kids will read the piece. If mom is a "walking disaster", where is CWS? In a number of cases, it's not the evictions that cause the families with kids to end up homeless, it's the addictions, the drugs, the gambling and the just plain bad judgements that cause the evictions that cause homelessness. It might sound mean, but a number of these kids would be better off away from their parents and the parent's temporary boyfriends/girlfriends.
Sam is a sloppy writer, but that's the Weakly.

amyalkon said...

A couple of single moms per room with five kids each? Hello? Give these women some birth control!