Unfortunately, since the recent preliminary injunction decision that forbids the city and its agents from seizing and/or destroying the private property of homeless people living in Skid Row (blog post), misinformation and questionable journalism has continued to suggest that this injunction is the reason why trash and other health and safety concerns have escalated throughout the community.
At first it was local blogs and the likes of Estela Lopez (ED of the Central City Association) and City Councilmember Jan Perry who were perpetuating false information. Then this week a problematic article by Christina Hoag of the Associated Press was picked up by newspapers across the country. According to Hoag, since the court’s decision, “the streetscape has deteriorated. The number of people sleeping on the street has jumped at least 30% since June because they can leave mattresses and tents on the sidewalks.”
A recent piece from the LA Weekly blog even went so far to say that trash and belongings have begun to “pile up Third-World style” to the point that “trash and the belongings of homeless have festered on the row between Los Angeles and San Pedro streets, between Third and Seventh streets.”
Let this be clear: there is nothing about the injunction that prevents the city from cleaning up trash in the community. They have, however, continued to use this as an excuse for not doing their job.
In fact, community residents recently voiced their concern about trash being neglected by the city to the office of their councilmember, Jan Perry. And it appears that those meetings worked. Since last week, the clean up crew seems to have resumed cleaning the streets – something conveniently omitted from any recent media articles.
In contrast to the degrading descriptions of our community promoted by the business community, the photos above (taken November 1) support LA CAN’s position that it is completely possible for the city to both respect the property of individuals while also doing their job of cleaning the streets. They also reveal that belongings are not piling up “Third-World style.” Rather, they show that the vast majority of personal belongings on the street during the day are neatly organized, often times covered, and placed tightly against against an wall/fence and away from the street.
This month-long media blitz seems to be the business community’s attempt to influence the court appeal process – the City’s appeal to the injunction is currently pending. It is in their interest to perpetuate the myths that this injunction has created a “third-world” environment, so that the injunction will be overturned. We hope that the fearmongering of the business community won’t trump the constitution, as the courts have ruled over and over to protect homeless residents’ right to possess property – no matter where they live.
We ask why would the City supported by downtown business interests (or vice-versa) want so badly to be able to have the right to steal people’s personal property? If the City and business community supported the right to housing, invested in real solutions, and stopped wasting our police and legal resources to fight for the right to steal and destroy people’s things – there wouldn’t be a problem with property on our sidewalks, because people would store their belongings in their own homes. We will continue to fight for this reality.