Thursday, August 09, 2012

What Occupy LA, Chalk Walk and the Media Don't Know About the Historic Downtown LA Neighborhood & Skid Row

Whenever any of us talk about the type of 'community' we have built here in Historic DOWNTOWN LA, the Occupy LA 'activists' always like to ridicule the idea that we have built anything special.  That's because they don't know what this neighborhood used to be - and what it's become and what it took to accomplish that.  Nor do they understand why their actions are making it far harder for those who are now sleeping on the sidewalks to be able to get into housing.

They also do not understand that while other parts of the city are fighting ANY low income housing, both the local business community and the local residential community have largely supported both the major service providers in their expansions and both SRO and Skid Row Housing   on their latest projects (after some healthy debate) due to the trust we have developed with each.

And many of us on a daily basis not just help these institutions - but many of us - on a one to one basis -have long done what we can to help those who were living on the streets.  Since I first moved here in the 1990's I have helped over 50 people get off the streets and get not just housing - but, far more importantly - the help they needed to be able to accept housing while working to reconnect them with the people in their lives - family members, college friends, a former high school coach or past employers - anyone who could assist them on their long road back.

For nine years I did this without anyone knowing about it until Steve Lopez did a series of columns about one person I had been helping - and how it paralleled the person - Nathaniel - he had been helping.  And here is a link to one of those columns. 

But the most important point made in the other columns was that this homeless person who lived alone on the street had an entire extended family of other loft dwellers (and office workers) - each one of whom repeatedly checking in with him and each one of us trying to get him the help and the housing he repeatedly refused.

And it was only after Steve Lopez ha inadvertently connected us with each other that we were - collectively - as a community - able to get him off the streets.

It also turned out the 'evil'  Central City Association & Downtown BID had a long funded homeless out reach patrol - and they too had contacted him dozens and dozens of times, also trying to get him the help he needed.  And, as I just said - it was all of us - working together as a community - that enabled him to be able to take control of his own life - and help himself.;

Another things  OCCUPY LA does not understand is how difficult it is to get people to want to get off the streets - since  most people who camp out on Skid Row do so not for financial reasons but due to mental illness and alcohol and drug dependency - and how hard it is for us to get them to accept housing.  

So the final irony is that the harder they 'fight' to preserve their 'rights' to sleep on the sidewalk - the harder they make it for them to accept and receive the help they need to get off of the streets. And they simply do not understand that making it easier for them to stay on the street and that by 'figthing'  for their 'right'  to sleep on the streets - is only making ti easier for them to continue to do so - and making far harder for those of us who have been fighting to get them off the streets and into housing - thus condemning them to even more years on the streets before they can finally accept the help they need.

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