June 11, 2024

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass
Los Angeles City Hall
200 N Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mayor Bass,

It is a punishing time for poor, unhoused women attempting to survive in Los Angeles.

As we know, women continue to suffer the injustice of unequal compensation. We have greater gender-related costs. When we lose our homes, support and safety nets — as many of us are experiencing now — we receive fewer services than men. Black and Brown women, in particular, continue to suffer overlapping forms of discrimination.

In Skid Row, we face even greater challenges. We are routinely the last to learn about and access housing. Ever more women with children are unprotected, yet we are simultaneously targeted and neglected. A growing number of women in Skid Row have endured violence and sexual harassment in initiatives like Project Room Key and Project Home Key, yet we’re the first to be dismissed and exited. Shelters in Skid Row are not an ethical option. They are unsanitary, unsafe and poorly staffed. The dehumanizing treatment and conditions within these sites are constantly echoed. As the most densely populated unhoused community in the nation and predominantly Black, little has changed to prioritize our community’s needs. We are still waiting for a cohesive plan to house us, to house our vulnerable daughters, mothers, aunties, sisters and friends.

When you took office, you pledged to address homelessness across Los Angeles. The city — right now — has funding to humanely house people in permanent housing. Why have only two people been permanently housed? Why are shelters and enforcement the only options available? Shelters are not housing. Dignified housing does not have entry conditions. It should not have checkpoints, frisks, invasive body searches or curfews. It should not come with filthy shared bathrooms and kitchens.

Being unhoused does not make us criminals, yet being poor often renders our existence illegal. There is no humanity in the targeted removal of our communities, yet encampment sweeps are rampant. We are being violently forced out, banished from our communities and left without medication and valuable belongings. Many women in our community suffer from PTSD, anxiety and depression, as is the case with Stephanie Williams, a long term Skid Row resident, educator, provider and protector, who was targeted and uprooted by city departments.

We are re-traumatized when we see plans to allocate more money to policing. We are reminded that Black lives still don’t matter. More money for police translates to less money for services and housing. Less investment in our communities results in more arrests and barriers to housing. The same failed policies that destroyed our communities are being rehashed.

Any plan for housing vulnerable populations should be implemented without enforcement, and should offer independent, dignified living. This is why we demand the repeal of Municipal Code 41.18. The enforcement of 41.18 only targets and criminalizes us, poor, unhoused women and our communities. The city must invest in housing for vulnerable women in marginalized communities, not limitless resources for policing. It is the government’s responsibility to address and rectify the root causes of this issue. You cannot police a way out of this problem.

The continuation of such policies demonstrates that our politicians are not interested in fixing decades of harm and failed policy. The DTLA 2040 plan, Skid Row Action Plan, LA 2028 are not for us. We are being excavated from our communities to make room for the Olympics and lucrative developments. A vision for Los Angeles that does not include us, greenlights our persecution and causes us to die prematurely. We are tired of recycled strategies and baseless declarations. We were hopeful that we’d be prioritized, given your background as an organizer who fought for civil rights. However as Black and Brown women, we feel betrayed by elected officials who look like us, but whose homeless plans make clear they are not us. Based on your policies we see that, even to a Black Mayor, this predominantly Black community is once again targeted for erasure.

Is any time our time? Will we ever be seen? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never’”. Stop this cycle of abandonment, neglect, oppression and injustice. We need a bold, humanitarian approach. We need you to center our needs.

To protect women in our communities the following actions must be taken urgently:

  1. Prioritize housing solutions for unhoused women immediately, in particular Black women who are overrepresented among the unhoused.
  2. Discontinue the separation of families by providing accommodations for women and their children.
  3. Convert all vacant property owned by the city/county into housing that can be used for women and families.
  4. Direct resources to healthcare services for women, using city, state, and federal funds.
  5. Stop criminalization of unhoused communities and repeal 41.18.
  6. End LAPD engagement strategies and homeless outreach.

Finally, given our longstanding history of living and working with women in Skid Row and Downtown Los Angeles, D.W.A.C. provides essential insight into the needs of houseless women. We urge you to use the recommendations from our Skid Row Women’s Needs Assessment as a guideline to best serve women in our community. Those with lived experience know what they need and have proven solutions that foster self-determination. Solutions that do not involve the police at any step of the process. Community involvement is essential for gaining a perspective on what needs to be done to achieve significant results. There is no way to credibly implement housing and public health solutions without the voices, expertise and Herstories of women in our communities.

Nothing about us without us.


The women of D.W.A.C.:
Jacqueline Wun-meen
Kelly Ibrahim
Kimberly Johnson
LaVeeta Marbury
Lorraine Lopez
Lorraine Morland
Monique Noel
Natosha Smith
Rosa Miller
Shameka Foster
Stephanie Williams
Suzie Q
Tiffany Nickens
Tremaine Wade

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