Oct 16, 2006
For the past month, Los Angeles police have been carrying out daily raids in downtown L.A.’s skid row – arresting homeless people camped on the sidewalk, destroying their encampments and confiscating their belongings.
First, the authorities said that the arrests targeted drug dealers only, not homeless people. But the number of arrests alone – over 800 out of a population of about 1,500 living on the sidewalks – proved the opposite. So the officials admitted that they were enforcing a city ordinance which makes it illegal to sleep on sidewalks. In fact, last April, a federal appeals court had declared that ordinance unconstitutional. But the L.A. city attorney’s office decided that the court ruling applied only to arrests made at night, not during the day!
Last March, L.A. County had announced a 100-million-dollar program to move homeless services located in skid row to five centers across the county. But, apparently, city officials aren’t in the mood to wait until those centers are set up – they have already taken the initiative to push the homeless out of downtown L.A. by force, and as quickly as possible.
The reason for this aggressive push is not difficult to guess. Like in many other big cities across the country, a rapid “gentrification” is going on in and around downtown L.A. Old office buildings, warehouses and hotels are being converted into luxury lofts for the well-to-do. Even some of the single-room occupancy hotels in skid row have jumped on the bandwagon and started to convert rooms into luxury units!
So L.A.’s abandoned old business district, into which the city’s homeless had been pushed for decades, has suddenly become hot real estate. And when big profits are to be made by real estate bosses, the homeless have to be pushed once again, this time out of skid row, whether they have any other place to go or not.