Skid Row
LA 2020

Skid Row Los Angeles – The Largest Homeless Encampment in the United States

In a city known for glitz, glamor and displays of excess wealth, Skid Row is the extreme opposite. It contains the largest concentration of homeless people in the world.

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In the video above we take you through Skid Row. You’ll find it hard to believe such a place could exist here in America. This was filmed using a DJI Osmo Pocket gimbal camera and a window mount bracket. You can check them out on Amazon.

For the longest time Los Angeles tried to pretend Skid Row wasn’t there. They showed the world the images of the beautiful beaches, beautiful mansions and dazzling nightlife. But the homeless problem in LA has become so massive it simply isn’t possible to hide it anymore. Skid Row is where it is at its worst.

Los Angeles is the only city in the world I know of that has such a large, long standing homeless population that it has officially named a district in the city Skid Row! The district is directly east of downtown Los Angeles It covers about 3 square miles and spans over 50 blocks. The official boundaries are Third Street on the North, Seventh Street to the south, Alameda Street to the East and Main Street on the West.

It’s miles and miles of human wretchedness, misery and suffering. In the richest state in the nation!

Estimates put the homeless population of Skid Row between 4500 and 8000 people.

People seeing it for the first time are left utterly stunned. The sight of the tents, the trash, the filth and the stench of human waste leave those who see it deeply disturbed. It’s difficult to believe people could be living in conditions like this in America.

People end up on skid row for a variety of reasons. Most people think drug addiction, alcoholism and mental illness are the cause. While that’s true, representatives of homeless service centers tell me that around 70% ended up on the streets after a series of events forced them out of their homes. This could be losing their job and not being able to find a new one in time to stop an eviction or simply being priced out of the rental market.

The shelters have found that if the newly homeless don’t get off the streets within 3 days, they most likely never will. People newly arriving on the streets are rapidly approached by drug dealers and pimps that press them into a life where there is no return.

Skid Row is also known for the public health problems it creates due to a lack of sanitation. Residents use the streets as pubic bathrooms. Rodents infest the area. There have been outbreaks of Typhus and Tuberculosis. Yet despite the lack of sanitation and hygiene combined with the overcrowding, lack of social distancing and few wearing face masks, there have been no reported outbreaks of current virus in skid row.

The city did put portable restrooms and hand washing stations out around the encampments, but the facilities are far from sanitary. I would hate to have to use one of them And many of the homeless still prefer to use the street as a public toilet.

At the onset of the pandemic, California created project Roomkey to move the homeless off of the streets and into the hotel rooms that were sitting empty due to travel bans. The 100 million dollar project provided temporary shelter in vacant hotels for less than 7000 of the state’s nearly 170,000 homeless.

Skid row and Los Angeles as a whole saw no relief in the number of homeless. In fact it became much worse. We talk about this in the videos we’ve done on the homeless in MacArthur Park, Echo Park and Venice Beach. I’ll link to them in the text.

This is on top of a $430 million dollar budget by the city of Los Angeles for homeless services!

California’s current budget include 1.25 billion dollars to combat homelessness. Yet the more money California spends to combat it, the bigger the problem gets.

Much of this has to do with corruption. San Francisco was recently stunned to learn that a project to provide “safe tents” for the homeless was done at a cost of $5000 per tent per month. You heard that right. $5000 a month per TENT!

Projects to convert old hotels into permanent housing for the homeless have not been getting completed. And when they do we are seeing price tags of close to a million dollars per unit to complete them. This boggles the mind. How can you make it cost that much to refurbish a hotel room?

Stupidity factors in here too. I couldn’t help but notice while filming this how the city has put electric vehicle charging stations in place in skid row. Somehow I don’t think many of the people that live down here are in need of a place to plug in their Tesla’s at night!

Skid Row isn’t new to Los Angeles. It was born in the midst of the Great Depression. The area had a lot of residential hotels and social services and drew the transient seasonal workers to it. In 1956 Los Angeles attempted to rehabilitate Skid Row by forcing upgrades on the decaying hotels and buildings. Owners of the hotels found it cheaper to demolish the buildings. This resulted in even more homeless on the streets.

In 1976 Skid Row was officially declared a containment zone where shelters and services for the homeless could be provided. But homeless population in Los Angeles is one of the fastest growing segments of the population. Skid Row long ago spilled beyond its boundaries and the homeless can be found on the streets anywhere in Los Angeles.

In 2005 it was discovered that law enforcement agencies and hospitals, particularly psychiatric hospitals were dumping patients onto the streets of skid row.

Efforts have been made to clean up skid row, but a court ruled in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU that the Los Angeles Police Department can’t arrest people for sitting, lying or sleeping on pubic sidewalks.

This may have offered some slight protection for the homeless, but area businesses are not happy about the situation. Nothing discourages customers more than having to pass through a homeless encampment to get in the store.

There has also been an ongoing problem with fires breaking out in the encampments and on some occasions they have caught neighboring businesses on fire.

Though a small geographical area, Skid Row accounts for 60% of the crimes in central Los Angeles. It’s a problem Los Angeles can’t afford to ignore any longer.

It’’s clear that throwing more money at it is not the solution. Instead we have to address the root causes. The war on drugs that has left us with more drugs on the streets than before it was implemented is a part of the problem The epidemic of opioid addiction due to prescription drugs contributes. The staggering cost of housing in Los Angeles brought about by excessive regulations coupled declining wages is a big factor.

And while we are cleaning up the corruption, we need to provide the homeless meaningful services that will help them gain skills and become employable at a level that covers the cost of living in Los Angeles.

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