Archive for The Dirty Divide

The “Dirty Divide” in DTLA continues to make news…sort of.

Posted in human & civil rights, legal, Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 30, 2013 by Cangress

Skid Row, Los Angeles–

In April 2013 LA CAN released a report entitled, The Dirty Divide, which clearly detailed the inadequate public health infrastructure that exists in DTLA. Utilizing a participatory action research framework residents mapped the day-to-day experiences faced by residents simply attempting to relieve themselves. Moreover, the report included a set of recommendations that we are using as a roadmap for the work needed to end the public health inequities. National and local researchers pointed to the report, and its participatory methodology, as a model way of problem solving which includes a variety of stake-holders and duty-bearers.

On June 5, 2013 the Department of Public Health released its follow-up report on the current conditions of Skid Row. Current Status of Conditions on Skid Row Report.6.5.13 The report found alarming increases in conditions previously abated by the City of Los Angeles in their May 2012 inspection. Among their findings were an  88% increase in solid waste disposal violations; a 100% increase in vermin violations; a 62% increase in safety violations; and, that the presence of urine and feces increased by 82%. Many of the report findings mirrored the conclusions drawn in the Dirty Divide, and while not news to residents facing the problems daily, it validated the need to respond rapidly.

But why had the City of Los Angeles’ Operation Healthy Streets fallen so drastically?

As reported by LA CAN, on numerous occasions, the impetus behind Operation Healthy Streets was less about the health of Skid Row residents and more about the Lavan Injunction which stopped the outright illegal confiscation and destruction of personal property. Residents have long cleaned the area and pushed for basic trash pick-up to no avail but it was not until the City of Los Angeles found itself in dire legal straits that their game of “smoke and mirrors” would begin. Noticeably, after their legal maneuvers failed to produce desired outcomes and the Supreme Court refusal to even hear their case, it quickly went back to business as usual.

On July 29, 2013 Gail Holland, LA Times wrote an article entitled, “Skid row bathrooms are a perennial debate,”  which attempts, in a lackluster fashion, to posit that solutions to the bathroom crisis are stunted because advocacy groups and various Mayor’s all have had different answers. In fact, LA CAN, the County Department of Public Health, many other service and advocacy groups, and now – according to the article – even LAPD agree that until the long-term solution of housing for all is achieved, more 24-7 restroom access is crucial and can be provided through automated toilets and/or in service sites.  Nowhere did Gail mention the fact that LAPD has for years lobbied hard against additional bathrooms; had bathrooms locked at night; or, that some public urination cases were handled as sex crimes leading to registration on the sex offender list and all the problems associated with that determination.  I would have to say that Gail missed alot in her skid row bathroom investigation, particularly that there is widespread need and support for solving public health inequities in Skid Row but not the political support to do so – likely because of the business community’s opposition she mentions, but does not contextualize.

The only thing “perennial” about this issue is the everlasting attitude that dehumanizes poor and homeless people, and Black people in particular.

Closing the Gap on the “Dirty Divide” in DTLA

Posted in civil rights, human & civil rights with tags , , , on July 18, 2013 by Cangress

In April 2013 LA CAN released its report entitled, The Dirty Divide, to highlight the the lack of public amenities for downtown’s poorest residents. Utilizing a public health and human rights framework the report made a compelling argument on why elected officials/duty-bearers needed to immediately reverse the grotesque absence of public health infrastructure.

Additionally, the report included a set of recommendations that could ultimately assist in creating a strategy to end the inequities. (see below) As an organization that set of recommendations guides our organizing and planning to ensure the health of Skid Row residents is taken seriously.

Recommendation #2 of 8 calls for adequate numbers of trash receptacles be placed in Skid Row and today look we showed up:

A New Delivery of Trash Cans to Skid Row

A New Delivery of Trash Cans to Skid Row

We see this first delivery of (17) trash cans as a start. As a community we will not stop organizing and fighting until all of our demands/recommendations are met. We have a long way to go and we look forward to your support along the way.


Human rights require a focus on the most vulnerable, those who are most often excluded from progress. Often, these people are characterized as the most difficult to reach, but this cannot be a justification for neglecting them – on the contrary. Human rights require that there be universal access. Hence, merely addressing formal or direct discrimination will not ensure substantive equality. To eliminate discrimination in practice, special attention must be paid to groups of individuals, who suffer historical or persistent prejudice instead of merely comparing the formal treatment of individuals in similar situations. In order to respond to the human rights violations outlined in this report and begin to ensure public health equity, LA CAN recommends the following actions.

  1. Shift current political and governmental priorities and resources from criminalization to housing.
  2. Place adequate numbers of trash receptacles in skid row with frequent disposal.  
  3. Frequent trash collection in skid row.
  4. Immediately increase the number of restroom facilities available to residents.
  5. Frequently clean skid row restrooms and ensure toilet paper, soap and hot water are available. 
  6. Provide potable water sources for skid row residents.
  7. Install Hygiene Centers at local parks or other accessible locations.
  8. Develop a community health council to address issues for the long-term.

PRESS RELEASE: The Dirty Divide Highlights the Continued Lack of Public Health Equity for Poor Downtown Residents

Posted in civil rights, press release with tags , , , on April 18, 2013 by Cangress

?????April 18, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             

Contact: Becky Dennison, Los Angeles Community Action Network (213) 840-4664

The Dirty Divide Highlights the Continued Lack of Public Health Equity for Poor Downtown Resident

LOS ANGELES — On April 11, the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) released The Dirty Divide, a participatory research project that highlights the continued lack of public health infrastructure for poor residents residing in Downtown Los Angeles – with a particular focus on trash services and restrooms.

“Dirty Divide blends science, politics, outrage and policy development; resisting the gated community of policymakers, Dirty Divide exemplifies the best of public participatory science for environmental and racial justice,” said Michelle Fine, Ph.D., City University of New York.

The report documents a growing dividi­ng line between the “new Downtown” and Skid Row communities, with new Downtowners continuing to see an influx in resources and services of all kinds while Skid Row continues to see resources and services threatened or all together cut. While the gentrification of Downtown LA impacts for more than trash and restroom access and associated public health disparities, but The Dirty Divide provides a snapshot of the inequities that exist in the City’s center – inequities that have been increasingly scrutinized by health agencies.

“As a 30-year resident of Downtown LA, I’m seriously concerned about the growing inequality between the new Downtowners and long-term Skid Row residents,” said low-income resident James Porter. “They complain about the trash, but refuse to give us trash cans. They put in automated restrooms, but they’re always broken. We’re not going to stand for this anymore.”

In May of 2012, the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health (DPH), at the request of the City of Los Angeles, released a report highlighting the severe water and sanitation shortcomings faced by Skid Row residents. DPH recommendations included, among other things, a call for the City to “Provide additional public toilets particularly on San Julian, San Pedro and Crocker Streets” and to “provide adequate number of trash bins with frequent, as needed disposal to prevent the accumulation of trash and debris on the sidewalk.” However, in the year since the relea­se of the report, the City has yet to implement these recommendations.

LA CAN embarked on its own participatory research project to further its continued work on these issues. Findings include that in only 32% of 147 spot checks of public restrooms were they open, clean and stocked with supplies.  In order to respond to the human rights violations outlined in The Dirty Divide and to ensure public health equity, the report offers recommendations that include: 1) Shift current political and governmental priorities and resources from criminalization to housing; 2) Place adequate numbers of trash receptacles in Skid Row and establish frequent trash collection; 3) Increase access to restrooms; and 4) Develop a community health council to address issues for the long-term.

“This report shows how Los Angeles is violating not just with its own health department’s recommendations but international human rights norm,” said Eric Tars of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP). “We at NLCHP are proud to support LA CAN in this call for L.A. to live up to its human rights obligations, stop treating its citizens like trash, and start treating them like human beings deserving of their basic human dignity.”

To read the full text of The Dirty Divide, visit or the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty website,