LA Times 8/13/14: “City, county join forces in program to help homeless get off skid row”

Full article HERE.

“City, county join forces in program to help homeless get off skid row”
Written by Gale Holland

Los Angeles city and county workers launched a major effort Wednesday to clean up skid row and offer medical, mental health and social services to help an estimated 1,700 homeless people get off the streets.

Dr. Susan Partovi, the medical field director for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, joined 35 city sanitation and street service workers, and a couple dozen mental health, medical and outreach workers, on San Julian Street between 5th and 6th streets.

“The goal is to house up to 10,000 people” in the next five years, Partovi said during a briefing before the cleanup. “Some of these people are acutely ill.”

Authorities described the $3.7-milion city-county program, called Operation Healthy Streets, as an unprecedented show of cooperation in an attempt to shake loose entrenched homelessness in the most concentrated skid row in the nation.

“We have coordination with the county, something we have rarely done in our approach to homelessness,” Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar said. Huizar has also called for the appointment of an official to oversee the city’s initiatives on the homeless.

As several rats scuttled in and out of holes, sanitation workers in white protective suits threw away hazardous waste, then bagged homeless people’s belongings, mostly bedding and clothing, to store for 90 days for pickup by their owners.

Officials say that the cleanup will continue through Aug. 21, and be repeated bimonthly, on a 30-block grid from Wall to Gladys streets, between 5th and 7th streets. Spot touch-ups are also planned.

Many homeless residents are skeptical of the new approach after decades of failed cleanup efforts.

“People want to get off the streets, they don’t want to go where they send them,” said a homeless man who gave his name as Philip. He complained that some shelters require attendance at religious services or demand a sizable portion of people’s meager general relief check for rent.

Los Angeles native Omar Allah, 29, said there is no room in the shelters. “You’ve got to go to jail to find out about housing,” said Allah, who sat on a milk crate around the corner from San Julian, where he had been staying before the cleanup started.

“That’s your real house, jail,” said his friend, Mike Johnson, 30.

Partovi said the resistance to shelters and temporary housing is understandable. “They all want their own place,” she said, adding that the county is developing permanent housing that includes care for mental health, substance abuse and medical issues.

Teams will also have to contend with early jail and patient releases that feed skid row’s population.

Michele Jones, 30, said St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles discharged her in the middle of the night after back surgery, leaving her nowhere to go but skid row.

“I’ve tried to get into a place, nobody will help me,” said the Northridge native, who still had an EKG electrode patch stuck to her chest.

St. Vincent spokeswoman Ann Betzsold said she could not comment on Jones’ statements.

Partovi said the county is opening two centers this year where patients can recuperate after hospitalization.

During the cleanup, General Dogon, an organizer with the Los Angeles Community Action Network anti-poverty group, confronted Huizar, saying that Operation Healthy Streets funds would be better spent paying neighborhood residents who have been cleaning the streets on their own during years of official neglect.

Dogon also said the city was not doing enough. “People need resources on a daily basis,” he said.

But other new plans are afoot. The city and county, pushed by federal officials, are moving toward a “housing first” strategy that places people in apartments even if they have substance abuse or mental health issues.

Since 2008, Los Angeles County has committed to spending $118 million on 41 housing developments with a total of 2,066 residences, including 918 set aside for people who are mentally ill and homeless.

Partovi said her department has also set up an $18-million fund to subsidize rent for homeless people who cycle in and out of hospital care and emergency rooms.

LA Times 8/13/14: “Physician joins skid row cleanup to get homeless off the streets”

Full article HERE.

“Physician joins skid row cleanup to get homeless off the streets”
Written by Gale Holland

Armed with a stethoscope, Dr. Susan Partovi walked some of skid row’s meanest streets Wednesday, stopping to help a man dazed and stumbling down the sidewalk with blood caked on his head.

Luis Trejas, 40, said he’d been beaten up and asked for a cigarette. Partovi dropped her backpack, guided him down to the ground and took his blood pressure.

Partovi, the medical field director for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, was part of a team of mental health, social service and medical workers who joined an initiative to curb entrenched homelessness in the 50-block downtown Los Angeles district.

The program was launched Aug. 4, when social, medical and mental health workers visited San Julian Street. The first cleanup took place Wednesday, and will continue through Aug. 21.

“The goal is to house up to 10,000 people” in the next five years, Partovi said during a briefing before the cleanup. “Some of these people are acutely ill.”

“We have coordination with the county, something we have rarely done in our approach to homelessness,” Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar said. Huizar has also called for a homeless “czar” to over see the city’s initiatives.

Partovi was able to get paramedics to Trejas. But she and other team members will have more than violence and injury to overcome to fix skid row, where many homeless residents are skeptical about the new approach after decades of failed cleanup efforts.

“People want to get off the streets, they don’t want to go where they send them,” said a homeless man who gave his name as Philip. He said some of the shelters require attendance at religious services, while others demanded a sizable portion of people’s meager general relief check for rent.

“I been here five years, there ain’t no room in no shelters here,” said Omar Allah, 29, a Los Angeles native, sitting on a milk carton around the corner from San Julian, where he had been staying before the cleanup started. “You’ve got to go to jail to find out about housing.”

“That’s your real house, jail,” said his friend, Mike Johnson, 30.

Allah said he had been in transitional housing but left because of excessive regimentation and bad living conditions. He also said he had a psychiatric condition.

Partovi said the resistance to shelters and temporary housing is understandable. “They all want their own place,” she said. The county is developing permanent housing that includes mental health, substance abuse and medical care, she said.

Teams will also have to contend with early jail and patient releases that feed skid row’s population.

Michele Jones said St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Los Angeles discharged her in the middle of the night after back surgery, leaving her nowhere to go but skid row.

“I’ve tried to get into a place, nobody will help me,” said the Northridge native, 30, who still had an EKG electrode patch stuck to her chest.

St. Vincent spokeswoman Ann Betzsold said she could not comment on Jones’ statements.

Partovi said the county is opening two centers this year where patients can recuperate after hospitalizations.

During the cleanup, General Dogon, an organizer with the Los Angeles Community Action Network anti-poverty group, confronted Huizar, saying Operation Healthy Streets funds would be better spent on paying neighborhood residents who have been cleaning the streets on their own during years of official neglect.

Dogon also said the city was not doing enough. “People need resources on a daily basis,” he said.

But other new plans are afoot. The city and county, pushed by federal officials, are moving toward a “housing first” strategy that places people in apartments even if they have substance abuse or mental health issues.

Since 2008, L.A. County has committed to spending $118 million on 41 housing developments with a total of 2,066 residences, including 918 set aside for people who are mentally ill and homeless.

Partovi said her department also has set up an $18 million fund to subsidize rents for homeless people who cycle in and out of hospital care and emergency rooms.

Police are also easing enforcement of minor offenses, and instead teaming with social service providers to identify seriously ill people who need help.

The emphasis on housing the most vulnerable could leave out those caught in a short-term crisis, or who simply are young.

Jennifer Wilbon, 21, of New York City said she came to Long Beach for a gay pride festival but became stranded on skid row after she was robbed.

“It’s hard to find places that take young people in,” she said.

LA is “crafting a new plan” for Skid Row – unfortunately in reality it’s really just talking points.

OCANO PHoto

May 2014 – Carlos Ocano, a homeless Skid Row resident with a known mental illness, who fell to his death after LAPD SWAT Team shot him with non-lethal ammunition. Why was SWAT called instead of the System-wide Mental Assessment Response Team (SMART), which pairs mental health professionals with specially trained officers? (Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Police Department and City of Los Angeles are “crafting new plan to help homeless on skid row.” This includes “developing a new strategy for taming pervasive homelessness on skid row, easing up on arrests for petty offenses while concentrating mental health, medical, housing and sanitation services in the long-troubled swath of downtown.” Unfortunately, this rhetoric – both on the part of the writer and city officials who are quoted throughout the piece – does not reflect the actual criminalization of an entire community and too often deadly use of force that continues to characterize LAPD policing in Skid Row.

To be clear, LA CAN has opposed “broken windows” policing from the day it was introduced in the form of the “Safer Cities Initiative.” The flawed policing method, introduced by former Chief Bill Bratton in 2006, has brought nothing but long-term devastation  that continues to plague the community. We would welcome any sincere efforts to shift the focus in Skid Row from policing and criminalization to housing, mental health services, and public health infrastructure. These are concrete solutions to ending homelessness that LA CAN has worked on securing for well over a decade.

LAPD San 6

July 2014 – LAPD officers at 6th and San Pedro after telling homeless residents they had to take their belongings and move on or “they would be going to jail.” (Credit: AARON CANTÚ)

However, the residents of Skid Row just aren’t seeing this supposed “more progressive approach” that LAPD Captain John McMahon describes in the article. Rather, residents continue to experience the more of the same: Citations and harassment for basic life-sustaining activities (like sitting or sleeping on the street); a lack of restroom facilities, trash cans, public space and other public services/amenities enjoyed by Downtowners who live west of Main St.; the business community actively opposing projects that would house homeless residents; regular examples of aggressive, violent, and deadly force; Private property theft on the part of Business Improvement District Guards/Workers; Racial profiling and targeting; and, an overall policing style that violates basic civil and human rights and punishes people for being homeless rather than connecting individuals with the services and support they need.

And if there is a new approach to how the community is policed, why haven’t the residents themselves heard about it? LA CAN has tried regularly to set up community meetings in which residents can express their ideas and concerns about the Safer Cities Initiative directly to LAPD and the Police Commission, and those demands and requests have been consistently declined. Recently LA CAN met with new leadership at LAPDs Central Division, secured a community meeting time and date to discuss Safer Cities implementation, only to have the meeting canceled at the last moment.

LA CAN welcome’s a genuine move toward actual solutions to homelessness (housing, services, ending the Safer Cities Initiative) – and have been organizing to make that a reality. However, we fully understand that just because LAPD says something doesn’t make it so – we will be convinced when the rubber meets the proverbial road.

arrest

June 2014 – A female resident of Skid Row being arrested after not listening to LAPD’s orders to get out of the street.

 

Unequal and Targeted Enforcement Escalated again on Main Street Yesterday – People Cited for Handing out Seedlings to the Community and Police Monitor Arrested

Downtown Los Angeles gentrification continues to reach all-time lows as LAPD carries on with its mission to rid downtown of poor and homeless, and mostly Black, faces. In the May 20th episode, LAPD took action to stop…wait for it…a seedling give-a-way in front of the LA CAN office. The bustling operation, coordinated by LA CAN’s community gardeners in front of our office, was being visited by a vast array of downtown stakeholders. In fact, our garden project almost always demonstrates the real potential of bringing together disparate communities and realizing the purported vision of a “mixed-income” downtown – there is widespread support for community gardens and giving residents access to seedlings to start their own gardens of any size.

seedling giveaway 5-20-13

The Great Plant Caper – Seedling Give-Away at LA CAN

LAPD Officer Owens apparently isn’t a fan of gardening, but is fine with perpetrating the Jim Crow policing used under Downtown’s Safer Cities Initiative.  The tool of choice for years to move poor and homeless people off Main Street has the been the enforcement of municipal code 41.18D – no sleeping or sitting on the sidewalk.  And that’s what Officer Owens was doing yesterday – issuing a ticket to an elderly gentleman sitting in a portable stool and two LA CAN members sitting in chairs handing out seedlings.  Never mind that all parties cited were actually on private property – within 3 feet from a private building.  Never mind that a legal settlement agreement requires LAPD to give people warnings and the opportunity to comply BEFORE citing or arresting anyone for 41.18D.

Fully aware of their rights, and the actual 41.18 D rules, the LA CAN members stated they could not be cited for 41.18D and requested to speak to a supervisor. Instead, within minutes, nearly a dozen police responded to the plant give-away “crime scene.”  Thelmy Perez was monitoring this incredibly over-use of LAPD with her cell phone camera when she was seized by three officers and arrested.  Thelmy was released later in the day and now faces a charge of interfering with police investigation.  Sean and Esteban also received misdemeanor citations for their community gardening activities, and Jody, our elderly neighbor, faces misdemeanor charges for just sitting down for a brief rest. 

Police monitoring 5-20-13

Monitoring Police as they Detain Community Gardeners

We of course won’t accept Jim Crow in Skid Row – we will continue to fight for equal rights and equal enforcement through local fights and statewide fights like YES on AB 5, the Homeless Bill of Rights.  We will also fight these four cases together and ensure this most recent round of criminalization of perfectly legal community activities and organizing does not stick! LA CAN will continue our community gardening and seedling give-away programs in public space as well.

Yesterday is unfortunately just one example of the blatant selective enforcement and civil rights violations that define the Safer Cities Initiative, and the continued criminalization of organizers who stand up against these violations.  If you aren’t familiar with Main Street – wealthier residents and visitors sit and stand on the street regularly.  Below you will see the bench in front of the Nickel Diner and the tables and chairs for the new “Creamery”  – where their upscale customers sit without any police harassment, within a block of LA CAN.  Apparently the Nickel Diner can put a bench in front of their establishment (complete with a sign that says “customers only”), but LA CAN members can’t be found in chairs in front of our office.   Again – we won’t accept this and will fight for equity on Main Street and throughout all of LA and beyond.

nickle diner

Fiddler Creamory

Nickel Diner

LAPD Opens Fire on Skid Row Corner (AGAIN), At Least 1 Person Shot and Killed

GA2

This morning, LAPD officers shot into a crowd on the corner of 5th and Wall in Skid Row. At least one person was shot and killed. LA CAN is still looking into the matter and collecting information from witnesses.

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However, even if LAPD were responding to a crime, was everyone on the corner a suspect? If not, then why shoot multiple rounds in the middle of one of the busiest corners in Skid Row? How many innocent people were put in danger? Were any of them wounded?

This is not the first time this happened. Police officers shooting into crowds of civilians does not make the community safer. It is extremely dangerous and completely unacceptable. Community residents will not stand by idly and allow this to happen. We demand answers and accountability!

CCEA Illegally Using Bolt Cutters to Steal Skid Row Resident Property

Yesterday the LA CAN Community Watch Team came upon the Central City East Association (CCEA) Security Guards attempting to use bolt cutters to illegally confiscate the property of a Skid Row resident. The team intervened to prevent them from stealing the private property, which was clearly not abandoned. However, when the team returned an hour later, the property was gone and the lock was cut.

A September 2012 decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction that bars the City of Los Angeles and LAPD from seizing the property of Skid Row residents. However, private Business Improvement District officers continue to illegally steal property from residents. They regularly claim that this property is abandoned, but LA CAN has documented time and time again that this is not the case. More often than not the property belongs to residents who step away for a few minutes to use the restroom, get a meal, or engage in other life sustaining activities.

PRESS RELEASE: The Dirty Divide Highlights the Continued Lack of Public Health Equity for Poor Downtown Residents

?????April 18, 2013

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             

Contact: Becky Dennison, Los Angeles Community Action Network (213) 840-4664

The Dirty Divide Highlights the Continued Lack of Public Health Equity for Poor Downtown Resident

LOS ANGELES — On April 11, the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) released The Dirty Divide, a participatory research project that highlights the continued lack of public health infrastructure for poor residents residing in Downtown Los Angeles – with a particular focus on trash services and restrooms.

“Dirty Divide blends science, politics, outrage and policy development; resisting the gated community of policymakers, Dirty Divide exemplifies the best of public participatory science for environmental and racial justice,” said Michelle Fine, Ph.D., City University of New York.

The report documents a growing dividi­ng line between the “new Downtown” and Skid Row communities, with new Downtowners continuing to see an influx in resources and services of all kinds while Skid Row continues to see resources and services threatened or all together cut. While the gentrification of Downtown LA impacts for more than trash and restroom access and associated public health disparities, but The Dirty Divide provides a snapshot of the inequities that exist in the City’s center – inequities that have been increasingly scrutinized by health agencies.

“As a 30-year resident of Downtown LA, I’m seriously concerned about the growing inequality between the new Downtowners and long-term Skid Row residents,” said low-income resident James Porter. “They complain about the trash, but refuse to give us trash cans. They put in automated restrooms, but they’re always broken. We’re not going to stand for this anymore.”

In May of 2012, the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health (DPH), at the request of the City of Los Angeles, released a report highlighting the severe water and sanitation shortcomings faced by Skid Row residents. DPH recommendations included, among other things, a call for the City to “Provide additional public toilets particularly on San Julian, San Pedro and Crocker Streets” and to “provide adequate number of trash bins with frequent, as needed disposal to prevent the accumulation of trash and debris on the sidewalk.” However, in the year since the relea­se of the report, the City has yet to implement these recommendations.

LA CAN embarked on its own participatory research project to further its continued work on these issues. Findings include that in only 32% of 147 spot checks of public restrooms were they open, clean and stocked with supplies.  In order to respond to the human rights violations outlined in The Dirty Divide and to ensure public health equity, the report offers recommendations that include: 1) Shift current political and governmental priorities and resources from criminalization to housing; 2) Place adequate numbers of trash receptacles in Skid Row and establish frequent trash collection; 3) Increase access to restrooms; and 4) Develop a community health council to address issues for the long-term.

“This report shows how Los Angeles is violating not just with its own health department’s recommendations but international human rights norm,” said Eric Tars of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP). “We at NLCHP are proud to support LA CAN in this call for L.A. to live up to its human rights obligations, stop treating its citizens like trash, and start treating them like human beings deserving of their basic human dignity.”

To read the full text of The Dirty Divide, visit www.cangress.org or the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty website, www.nlchp.org.

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Central Division, LAPD Officer Earl Wright, and 1.2 million Reasons to Finally Erase Racism

This week the City of Los Angeles, really LA taxpayers, paid Officer Earl Wright S1.2 million after a jury (after 4 hours) found that fried chicken and watermelon birthday cakes were indeed RACIST!  http://www.scpr.org/news/2013/03/26/36562/black-lapd-officer-wins-1-2-million-discrimination/ and http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-lapd-verdict-20130326,0,617450.story

LA CAN has witnessed Officer Wright and other officers named in this suit during the course of their duties for years.   There are relatively few Black officers in Central, a division that sits squarely in the middle of one of LA’s last African American/Black strongholds.  What is clear from the details and outcome of this case is that Central Division is as racist and brutal toward African Americans internally as they are externally.

Based in Downtown LA’s  Skid Row community, Central Division sits as if it’s a gun tower on a prison yard. Skid Row is definitely treated as a carceral  community, day in and day out, and bearing witness to human and civil rights violations is a daily occurrence. The issues of race and racism are not new in the community and regardless of what the “new and improved” LAPD might tell you.  Black folks are catching hell in Central Division, inside and outside of the station.

LA CAN has been on the front-lines fighting against the banishment of poor, mostly Black people in Downtown Los Angeles for more than a decade. Our nationally recognized Community Watch program educates residents on their civil rights, documents police activities in our neighborhood, and  intervenes in cases of rights violations by the LAPD and Business Improvement District security guards.  Videos taken over the years shows racist and insensitive behavior that is hauntingly, though probably not surprisingly, similar to the issues faced by Officer Wright.

Officer Wright was harassed with photos depicting him as a character in the 70s TV show  Sanford and Son.  In the news clips below Central Division Officers are caught illegally taking property from skid row residents and dumping it under the 6th Street bridge. Once there, Central Division officers sing the Sanford and Son theme song to summon homeless residents to unload their vehicles and take whatever they want.

Clearly the behavior alleged by Wright is not new and from LAPD’s response to this video — not frowned upon. When we released the footage LAPD’s response was nonchalant and questioned if it was indeed racially charged.  Racism inside…racism out side – that pretty much sums it up.

Take a look for yourself.

LA CAN will continue to fight against LAPD’s oppression and racism in Skid Row, South LA, and across the City. LAPD now has $1.2 MORE reasons why they should finally get serious about confronting, preventing and erasing racism.  Charlie Beck’s “new and improved” mantra, with the support of people like Connie Rice, simply means a better public relations department – not real change.

Stopping the TB Mis-information Campaign: LA CAN Calls on Department of Public Health to Explain

The word of  a Skid Row TB “outbreak” traveled quickly. Local, National and International media outlets picked up the story and ran with it–most forgot to check the facts. Concerned family members and supporters called and emailed LA CAN members to make sure they were okay and taking all of the necessary precautions. The story created an environment of fear and panic and those elected and paid to assuage those fears were nowhere to be found.

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Buy Your Tickets TODAY! DWAC presents The Vagina Monologues

Downtown Women’s Action Coalition presents The Vagina Monologues
Written by Eve Ensler

Purchase your tickets TODAY! Contact Beckyd@cangress.org | 213.228.0024

Thursday, February 21 | Friday, February 22 | Doors open at 6:30pm
Vortex Theatre, 2341 E. Olympic Blvd. (at Santa Fe)

All proceeds go to the Downtown Women’s Action Coalition (DWAC). DWAC’s vision is to establish a collective voice that communicates the strength and power of women in the Downtown LA community.

Click HERE to view the event trailer.

General Admission $25 | Low-Income Residents $10 | Group Rate 5 for $50