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.