Culture

Please don’t throw their plates, pots, and pans away

I usually have semi-humurous, snarky posts. I’m a New Yorker, I can’t help it. Snark is in my DNA. Today, however, Im hoping to take a more serious time. I think I’m allowed to that. We all are. 
I first visited Los Angeles many, many years ago.  During my first visit, I was taken in somewhat by the glitz and glamour. Now, I don’t even see that. I have no recollection, whatsoever, of having seen my first time here the desperation, poverty and angst that I now see everywhere.  I live here now so it would be hard to ignore. But let me assure you that many manage to do so.  I live only a few blocks away from skid row, I can’t pretend that all is alright in the land of Hollywood.

Yesterday, I spent my morning over on skid row as part of Humanitarian Day. It is a lovely, kind, and inspirational event meant to bring dignity to those that are often forgotten. If you have never heard of skid row, I ask you to look it up and look at the photos.  Hundreds are living out of tents, if that lucky. The streets are their homes and they try the best they can to live. 

Now, here’s the thing about LA. Tent cities are everywhere. Even outside of parks near Beverly Hills. They are under the freeways, and in the alleys. People with nowhere to go, camp out throughout the whole city. As I was moving down to LA, I first saw it and was aghast. For sure, there are homeless people in NYC. However, they go into shelters or the train at night. There aren’t whole tent cities. At least, not what I experienced and remember. I am now a year and a half in LA, and it almost feels worse. 

Just recently, we were in our car going down a street that primarily consists of factories and warehouses. All around, individuals had set up their tents. But before us was a police car and a sanitation truck. Both kept stopping every 20 feet or so. The cops were sifting through the belongings and giving the ok to the sanitation workers to dispose of the tents and all within. There were not many people around. One’s heart cannot but help but break. 

I think of my belongings. I have a lot of things that could probably be thrown out but it’s my right to do so or not. I have a set of super cheap bowls and plates that I purchased on my first trip to LA. I came across this amazingly large 99 cent store and I was a graduate student making  $18,000. I loved that store.  I purchased many, many items of which I still have a fair number. 

I now have better plates and bowls than those. But I don’t want to get rid of them as they remind me if where I have been. I grew up and developed alongside those chintzy plates and bowls. I’d be devastated if anyone took them and threw them out. Even though they may look completely worthless to others.

I understand that the tent cities may present dangerous living situations and potential fire hazards.  I met an Uber driver recently who was doing quite well for himself niw. However he had spent seven of his teenage years on skid row due to his family kicking him out when he was a tween. I didn’t ask why. Does anything merit that? But back to the present.  I understand if things need to be shifted and moved around for everyone’s safety. But let’s try to do so humanely where people’s items are not just disposed of haphazardly and people still remain on the street. 

9 replies »

  1. Very sad post. I watched a lovely documentary a while back about artists who open spaces and provide supplies for the people of skid row to come and express themselves. It was very moving. There’s a great deal of talent living on those streets amidst such despair.

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  2. It may be easier to “dispose” of people’s things in a place like LA than in NY or Chicago, where it’s too cold to live in a tent for much of the year. I haven’t been to LA in many years so never witnessed these tent cities. Sad story.

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  3. Unfortunately, from what I’ve read, this is all too common throughout states like California and all along the Midwest. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to an ongoing problem. The theory being that if the homeless have nothing left, they’re easier to push elsewhere.

    The problem becomes complicated and seriously complex for big cities like LA.
    1. You may be disposing of family remnants, medications, personal records, or whole identities.
    2. You are adding to an already outgrown garbage stream that isn’t ending soon. Many of the things tossed away don’t decompose. Many more of these things just cannot be replaced by any means.
    3. You cause massive distrust of the very system supposedly set up to offer assistance (police, social workers, city employees).
    4. You may be aiding in an overpopulation of animal shelters; and at the very least contributing to a strain on the already stretched budgets of shelters and rescues.
    5. People who need the help will most likely avoid it because of two connected fears – a fear of becoming trapped in a system that doesn’t listen well; and a fear that if they leave anything behind, it is lost forever like all else to them.
    6. You contribute to a city-wide crime problem where the homeless may see no other way to survive if they are continuously forced to move and not create a support system (which needs a stable location)
    7. You continue a short-sighted analysis of cost and ROI when in fact it increases cost and the length of time to find solutions.

    Places such as NYC and Philadelphia, as you mention, are less prone to tent cities due to the climate more than anything; but at the same time, underground communities abound. And these places seem to answer the problem with the same sort of nearsightedness.

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    • You are so on point! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this very frustrating and sad community situation.
      True in NY they go underground and I remember cops moving them out of the subways.
      The medications problems I’ve seen first hand running a clinic.:-(

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