As we sort through all of the commentary and controversy regarding the Safer City Initiative, the Los Angeles Central Providers Collaborative (LACPC) paused to reflect on the program with unique perspective. The LACPC is made up of many of the missions and homeless service providers in the Central City region of downtown – an area commonly referred to as “Skid Row”. We have long-standing relationships with both the housed and un-housed people most affected by Safer City Initiative efforts. We have partnered with LAPD, the Mayor’s office, City Council and the City Attorney’s office to make sure this effort fits the unique character of our community.
With the incredible growth that the downtown area has experienced, the problems and potential of the area have been magnified – the residential population has increased by 20% since 2005. Some estimates suggest that over 40,000 people will be living in this area by the end of 2008.
The good news is that in the past two years violent crime has decreased 33% and “sidewalk” deaths, which include those people who died sleeping on the sidewalks, under freeway off ramps, under bridges, and in the street generally from overdoses or neglect, is down a startling 41% as compared to 2005/2006.
The streets are cleaner, trees are trimmed, drug dealers no longer stake claim on our corners and the residents (housed and un-housed) feel safer. Today there are no drug-infested porta-potties being used for prostitution and it has been a long time since we pulled one of our neighbors out of the stench and filth only to find them dead from an overdose. There are fewer people dying from traffic deaths because jaywalking has been reduced.
Central Division is the only LAPD Division that has a pre-filing diversion program – called “Streets or Services” (SOS). This effort, initiated by social service providers, elected officials, the City Attorney, LAPD and others, recognizes that the problems that perpetuate homelessness and poverty are not addressed by incarceration. Instead, programs that encourage people to recognize and address underlying issues provide a higher level of benefit for both that individual and the community. Out of all of the narcotics arrests made in the City of Los Angeles, historically 20% have been made in the downtown area. Five LACPC partners are collaborating on a grant from the City of Los Angeles to provide beds and services for the SOS program in order to try to give some of our chronically homeless guests a way off of the streets for good.
Services are still insufficient for all who need them. We still experience more need than available resources. However, we envision a day where we have the increase in services, and specifically dollars, to support that need. The economy has hit all non-profits hard and while we are suffering to make ends meet – our clientele is growing. The City of Los Angeles needs to continue to invest in our community which is home to people who have some of the most severe mental health and addiction issues you will find anywhere.
A few years ago we all realized it was imperative that this community make changes in order to provide safety and an environment that promotes community pride and ownership.
The efforts of the entire community have resulted in an improvement in quality of life. Is it perfect? Not yet. But a clear line has been drawn in the sand. We are a community of people that deserve the opportunity to live, work, recover and play in a safe and clean environment. There is a new pride in the neighborhood. There is still more work to be done. More resources have to be committed, but clearly we have made significant strides in our quest to end lawlessness and foster an environment that encourages respect, responsibility and personal and community prosperity. We are an example of a community that believes change can happen and we are willing to invest ourselves to make it happen. I am going to see if I can organize my neighbors to take this kind of action in my own home community! – Andy B.
What can you do to create an environment that promotes community pride and ownership in your neighborhood?
Do you think this will make a difference?
Here is a list of Union Rescue Mission’s local officials, if you’d like to thank them for their support.
1. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
2. Councilwoman Jan Perry
3. County Supervisor Gloria Molina