It is no secret that Skid Row is not the most pleasant of places. There is a distinct smell about the area, sidewalks and streets are significantly dirtier, and the smell of marijuana is never far away.
But when you dig even deeper, it gets much worse. Hypodermic needles, vermin nests, and human feces are a few of things you might find.
At the end of May the County Department of Public Health issued a 32-page report declaring Skid Row a public health hazard.
In June 2011 a ruling was made that banned city workers from collecting and destroying belongings that had been abandoned on the street. This ruling was made on the basis that it would protect the personal property of those experiencing homelessness while they were not near their belongings.
However, large encampments began to spring up and personal property that was to be protected by this ruling has now become a host to many health hazards.
Yesterday, a 3-week cleaning effort began to remove such hazards. Personal belongings that are removed will be held for 90 days in a secure location for individuals to collect. Lockers are also available for people to safely store their personal belongings.
Currently city lawyers are hoping to clarify what kind of property this ruling intended to protect and hope to make an amendment to the ruling to avoid a continued health hazard.
(Source: Ryan Vaillancourt, LA Downtown News)
(Photographs by Mark Boster – Los Angles Times)
Yesterday, the Union Rescue Mission chapel was a gathering place for organizations in the area to coordinate an outreach effort to people potentially displaced by the cleaning. This effort hopes to inform and encourage those on the street to use some of the many services available in the area.
Cleaning the streets is a good thing. But it does run the risk of displacing people who are already vulnerable. That is why it is crucial that people feel welcomed to places like URM. People need to be encouraged to make a choice to come in and receive necessary services, or better yet enter a holistic life-transforming program that will put an end to their life on the street.