Skid Row Residents and Orgs. Sue DTLA BID and City of LA for Unlawful Seizure of Property

Posted in press release with tags , , , , , on September 22, 2014 by Cangress
Skid Row Residents and Organizations Sue DTLA BID and City of LAW for Unlawful Seizure of Property

LOS ANGELES, CA (September 19, 2014)—Los Angeles Catholic Worker, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), Harry James Jones, Louis Grady, Lloyd Hinkle and Walter Shoaf filed a lawsuit in federal court today against the Los Angeles Downtown Industrial District Business Improvement District (LADID), Central City East Association (CCEA), and the City of Los Angeles to stop the LADID and City from seizing the personal property of homeless individuals on Skid Row, in violation of their constitutional rights.  They are represented by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) and Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris and Hoffman, LLP.

The City of Los Angeles is already under a federal court injunction prohibiting it from seizing property that is not abandoned, an immediate threat to health or safety, or evidence of a crime. Despite the injunction, LADID’s cadre of public safety officers in red shirts continue to take unattended property from homeless people living on the streets of Skid Row.

The seizures at issue are separate from street cleaning by the City and are not part of an organized maintenance schedule.  Instead, BID officers take people’s property without any notice – with seizures often occurring during times that officers know that homeless individuals are receiving services or eating at area missions. People step away from their property for often only minutes at a time to get a meal, go to a medical appointment, or even use the rest room.   When they return, all of their worldly possessions, including tents, bedding, and warm clothing, are gone—taken by truck to a location at the edge of the district.  The location is hard to reach and a far distance for people to transport property back to the places they regularly sleep, particularly without the assistance of the trucks that took the property away.  These seizures serve no purpose other than to make life even harder for homeless residents in Skid Row.

Last year, Harry James Jones, a disabled Vietnam War veteran, neatly packed up all his belongings including his identification card, his life-saving medication, tent, and clothing.  Same as every day, he went to get some food.  While he was gone, LADID officers took all of his property.  They left no receipt for him to retrieve the property when he got back. “I was only gone for a little while.  When I came back, all of my things were gone,” said Mr. Jones. “I had no way to know the Red Shirts would take my things when I was gone.  I didn’t have my medicine for weeks, and I didn’t have my ID to get a refill. I got very sick and wound up in the hospital.”

Lloyd Hinkle, another Vietnam War veteran, had similarly neatly packed his property, and a neighbor was watching over it while he went to eat. LADID officers, with the assistance of the LAPD, seized his belongings, despite being told they were not abandoned by both Hinkle’s neighbor and members of LA CAN, who videotaped the incident.  LAPD officers prevented witnesses and members and staff of LA CAN from intervening to stop the LADID officers from taking Mr. Hinkle’s belongings.  The LAPD officer insisted that BID officers were doing their jobs and that she and the officers were only taking abandoned property, even as LA CAN members insisted that the owner of the property was nearby. Mr. Hinkle was unable to predict the seizure, and he has no way of knowing when they will come for his property again. “Since they took my stuff, I’m less willing to leave, even to get a meal or see the doctor,” said Mr. Hinkle.  “I don’t want to risk the red shirts coming and taking my stuff again.”

Plaintiff Los Angeles Catholic Worker (LACW) distributes shopping carts to homeless people in Skid Row.  The carts are given to people so they can store their belongings and also use the carts to assist them in moving their property from one location to another.  LACW also provides meals, toiletries, and foot care to hundreds of homeless people in Skid Row every year.  “Because of ill-fitting shoes and poor foot care and the challenges of being homeless, so many people on the Row have problems just walking and getting around.  The carts not only give people a place to put their things, but they also help many people just walk down the street,” said Catherine Morris, one of the group’s organizers. “The BID’s constant taking of people’s things and our carts make it harder for people to live on the street and harder for us to do our work.”

Media Contacts:
Jeff Dietrich, Los Angeles Catholic Worker, 323-267-8789 or 310-627-7308
Becky Dennison, Los Angeles Community Action Network, 213-840-4664
Shayla Myers, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, 213-640-3983
Fernando Gaytan, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, 213-640-3831
Catherine Sweetser, Schonbrun Desimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP., 310-396-0731

Spanish speakers available upon request.

The September/October 2014 Community Connection is NOW AVAILABLE!

Posted in community connection on September 17, 2014 by Cangress

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Click HERE to read the September/October 2014 Community Connection.

Click HERE to download a high-resolution PDF version.

Post-Operation Healthy Streets with Councilmember Jose Huizar

Posted in civil rights, human & civil rights, video with tags , , , , , on August 29, 2014 by Cangress

Much has been made of Councilmember Jose Huizar’s Operation Healthy Streets. And the plan SOUNDS good on camera – cleaning streets and connecting homeless residents in Skid Row to services and housing via street outreach (an idea that Huizar suggests has “never been done before”). However, when the cameras are shut off and you try to get into the details of what kind of “housing” will be made available, then the answers and talking points don’t sound so polished.

Also, homeless outreach as a strategy has been done (and done well) by many groups across the city for years.The real issue is not outreach, but the lack of sufficient services and complete lack of housing!

Chief Beck Reappointment: LA CAN Opposition Testimony

Posted in LAPD, Media Advisory, organizing with tags , , , on August 12, 2014 by Cangress

As the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners stand poised to reappoint Chief Charlie Beck community residents, members of the rank and file and social organizations stand poised to reject the same. After guest appearances by MARÍA ELENA DURAZO Executive Secretary-Treasurer Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and Councilmember Tom Labonge (both showering Beck with praise and votes of confidence) other voices, mostly in opposition, rendering their votes of no confidence.

Here is a sample of LA CAN testimony:

“Horse trading, sexting, nepotism, saving racist and abusive employees, lying on camera, bribery…and so on and so forth define Chief Beck’s leadership. It sounds like an episode of 90210, TMZ, or Dallas but alas, once again, its #MyLAPD.

Leadership is defined  by doing what’s right even when its unpopular; not by doing what’s wrong just because it is popular.

To retain Chief Beck simply legitimizes illegal behavior, not bad behavior, illegal behavior and reinforces the idea and culture that the rank and file are above any obligation to follow rules or the rule of law. It’s exactly that mentality/reality which fuels profiling, extreme use-of-force, Rampart Scandals, Consent Decrees, social rebellion and huge, never ending, lawsuit payouts.

In reality Beck has proven his inability to lead this department; that he can never be ready for prime time; and,  that he remains entrenched in Darryl Gates Era “good ole boyism!” That his style of leadership leads to internal  and external turmoil.

In reality this moment has nothing to do with Beck but everything to do with you (commissioners) as the face and voice of the public. Your “Yes” vote means that you co-sign the steadfast decline to darker days; that your leadership is about something other than the needs of Angelenos; that this system is a mockery.

Beck, real leadership insists that you withdraw your name for consideration. Commissioners, leadership demands you resign your post if Beck is reappointed.

The 2013 Downtown Women’s Needs Assessment Report is OUT!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 5, 2014 by Cangress

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The 2013 Downtown Women’s Needs Assessment report is out! The Downtown Women’s Action Coalition (DWAC) surveyed over 300 women in Skid Row and the report highlights trends and needs of this population. Check out the report and DWAC’s recommendations and solutions to the issues facing our community!

For more information and updates, please LIKE the DWAC Facebook page!

Needs Assessment launch-release flyer (2)

 

 

WRAP Op-Ed in SF Chronicle: “Change heartless rules to house homeless families”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 29, 2014 by Cangress

An Op-Ed in the San Francisco Chronicle from our friend and ally Paul Boden over at the Western Regional Advocacy Project.

Change heartless rules to house homeless families
by Paul Boden

What kind of a mean, coldhearted, even sadistic homeless service provider would tell a family of three or four or five living in a single-room-occupancy hotel, or “illegally” sleeping on the floor of a friend’s apartment: “You aren’t homeless enough – you’re just poorly housed. Go sleep in the streets for a while. When you come back, you better be able to prove you are homeless.”

This would be the only kind of homeless service provider the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has been willing to fund since 2009.

In fact, the agency is so serious about this that, in 2011, it put out a 105-page memo detailing for local communities how severe the penalties would be for providing any services with HUD money without thoroughly documenting the eligibility of any homeless family or youth. Fines would be incurred if agencies served those not designated as a priority for services by the ridiculous point-in-time head counts HUD requires communities to perform.

That is why Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, have introduced legislation in their respective legislative chambers to overturn these draconian rules. The bills would amend HUD’s definition of homelessness, a change that would allow approximately 900,000 homeless children and families nationwide to access federal assistance programs. Specifically, children living in motels and doubled-up in households with acquaintances would be recognized as homeless.

HUD is, by far, the largest funder of homeless services. Yet, HUD’s restrictive definition of homelessness has created a cruel and vicious cycle. Once families lose their homes, they scramble for any place to stay. If they sleep in a vehicle or remain on the streets, they risk being categorized as unfit parents and losing their children to public agencies.

Hoping to avoid that, families will stay with other people, often in unstable and unhealthy situations that render them ineligible for homeless assistance. And, if that isn’t coldhearted enough (and it is), HUD also applies these rules to unaccompanied youth as well.

Why this Scrooge-like approach? Because families and unaccompanied youth cost too much money, that’s why. HUD can house 25 single adults in hotel rooms for the same cost of housing three families or helping out seven unaccompanied youth. So single adults have become HUD’s primary business.

HUD and some of the national homeless groups are trying to sell everyone on the amazing success of their 10-year plans to end homelessness. Yes, their head count numbers have gone way down (through redefinition but not reality). And yes, thousands of single adult homeless people have been housed in hotel rooms.

So, when your measuring stick for success is fewer homeless heads on the streets and more people in hotel rooms, you really can’t be wasting money caring for people who aren’t visible or obviously homeless (but who, nevertheless, are neither safe nor providing a good place for their children).

The human math is pretty simple: In 2006, we had 600,000 homeless students in public schools nationwide. In 2009, we had 930,000 and in 2012, it was 1.168 million. Yet, that same year, only 247,178 homeless households were eligible to receive services through HUD homeless assistance programs.

Call it poorly housed or call it the invisible homeless. No matter what you call it, this is heartless public policy. Support Feinstein’s and Miller’s legislation to change it.

Paul Boden, who was once homeless, is the organizing director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project. For updated information and to find out how to contact your elected representatives, go to http://www.helphomelessyouthnow.org.

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

Posted in civil rights, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 17, 2014 by Cangress
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.

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

 

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