In the United States of America we are allowed freedoms that many other nations do not enjoy. We have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom from unlawful searches and seizure. Yet for many in the skid row area, there seems to be a lack of freedom to voice their opinions about issues within their residences.
Recently, several brutal murders occurred here which prompted meetings with many tenants of low income supportive housing. They have expressed to me that they desire stronger police presence to deal with the criminal element that live in and loiter around the buildings they are trying to rehabilitate in. But other tenants tell me that they have always wanted to speak out about the conditions that they were forced to live in, but intimidation plays a role in suppressing their ability to speak out. They also advised that some managers have a very anti-police attitude; they would rather give those that break the law the freedom to engage in overdosing, narcotics sales, and prostitution. It is all done under the mantra of “harm reduction,” rather than providing a real improvement of the quality of life within locations designed to provide a safe haven for those trying to conquer their addictions and have a sustained sobriety.
As a result, many of these hotels go unchecked because the managers and advocacy groups who say they are the voices of skid row give the perception to law enforcement that they do not desire our assistance in separating the wolves from the sheep in their buildings.
Over the past 11 years in Skid Row it has been my experience that you cannot have sobriety, and lawlessness bedded together, and expect the majority of people to change their lives for the better. As I have said many times in regards to the Safer Cities Initiative, it is our strong desire to create an environment conducive to change in the lives of skid row residents. So with that, I would like to dispel a few myths about SCI, so that the skid row community, not “radical” skid row advocates, can come forward and voice their desires.
SCI is not here to get rid of skid row programs that are desperately needed to help the majority of skid row resident with a desire to change. We clearly understand the missions and other services in skid row are the most important facet of change in skid row.
We are not here to shut down your hotel, or housing program. In fact, in the past we have spoken out against the closure of these programs, because until other cities in LA County open up their hearts and minds to the plight of the mentally ill and homeless, the rehabilitative aspects of skid row must remain.
We are not trying to get rid of the homeless. Of course we would love to see homelessness end with more housing and programs, but until that happens we are only one piece of the puzzle to helping the homeless by bringing safety and order, so the second and most important component (the service providers) can thrive and reduce the recidivism rate. That can only happen when we restore order and reduce the temptations that for many in the skid row area causes them to fall back into the trappings that landed them here in the first place.