SKID ROW … ‘FIRST PERSON’ REPORT- In what can only be described as a “massive shake-up”, Skid Row Housing Trust has just taken major steps that change the core if it’s existence.
SRHT last week fired ALL of their nighttime desk clerks and replaced them with armed security guards. This week, they notified ALL of their tenants that they are now working with the Los Angeles Police Department to rid their buildings of drug dealers.
For years, residents and community activists have been outspoken regarding SRHT’s “safe haven” environment which has allowed drug dealers to set-up shop inside of each and every SRO (Single Room Occupancy) which is low-income housing for formerly homeless, mentally ill and residents who struggle with extreme poverty.
In 2006, LAPD launched their “Safer Cities Initiative” (SCI) which focused on low-level crimes such as jaywalking and public intoxication and also aimed to rid Skid Row of the numerous drug dealers that have controlled these streets for decades- selling popular street drugs such as crack cocaine, crystal meth, heroin and more.
The difficulties LAPD didn’t plan for was the clever ability of many of the drug dealers to adapt and simply take their “businesses” indoors- in the form of applying for an SRO unit and becoming a tenant, “renting a room” from a current tenant or constantly visiting different tenants within the same residential building to keep a consistent presence there.
Since it was created in 1989, Skid Row Housing Trust turned a blind eye on all the drug-related activities inside of their buildings and went even further to “stand up” to LAPD, citing their Harm Reduction housing model as the justification for their safe haven pushback- which protects their tenants and also conveniently protects the drug dealers- until now.
Notices were put on tenant’s doors announcing each of the sudden changes. The desk clerks have already been replaced with armed guards. Unlike in the past, SRHT is now working with LAPD Narcotics Division to; (per official notice to residents)
- “Identify and arrest those engaging in the sale of narcotics in and around our properties”
- “Grant FULL building access to both undercover and uniformed officers to support the above effort”
- “Retained a private security company with immediate dispatch ability to work directly with LAPD officers to ensure your safety and security”
While this is good news per se, it’s too little, too late seeing that it’s now 2016 and SRHT has already been in business for almost 30 years. The lives they failed to protect prior to this “newfound strategy” are countless- with arguably thousands resulting in death.
YES, blood is on the hands of Skid Row Housing Trust.
They owe us all a public apology. Their housing model DID NOT WORK as initially intended and after nearly 30 years of being in denial, are FINALLY changing their course, of which their mission statement claims to provide an environment in which “people who have experienced homelessness, prolonged extreme poverty, poor health, disabilities, mental illness and/or addiction can lead safe, stable lives in wellness.”
HOW COULD THIS HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE PRIOR TO NOW?
And to think of all the awards Skid Row Housing Trust has received over the decades as they falsely claimed to be “experts” on homelessness.
Skid Row residents and activists have publicly complained for decades of SRHT’s blatant disregard for the well-being of their tenants who struggle to cope with homelessness, mental illness and many other negative life-changing influences while residing inside the drug-infested, slum-like conditions, with almost all of their demands falling on deaf ears- until now.
Skid Row Housing Trust’s use of the Harm Reduction housing model (Which is funded by government agencies such as Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD]) condones drug use within one’s residential unit which then supposedly reduces the harm caused to the rest of the community. But obviously, the resident’s would need to get their drugs from somewhere nearby, hence the overabundance of drug dealers in Skid Row.
Now, SRHT’s new direction means the drug dealers will go back out to the streets where LAPD will be tasked with ridding “the homeless capitol of America” from drug dealers- something they have NEVER been able to do, and arguably didn’t want to do knowing of Skid Row’s “containment zone”- a legislative policy which began in the mid-1970’s (Which is often referred to as the beginning of the modern-day Skid Row). The containment zone policy was created during the time when the State-run mental institutions were closed and the mentally ill allowed to “go free”.
For the last five decades, Skid Row has been allowed to exist as a “controlled negative environment”. And Skid Row Housing Trust’s tenants now have the rumor mill buzzing with heightened concern. Their collective complaints of living in a constant, non-stop culture of robberies, rape, violent crimes and more have caused more harm to those simply wanting to sleep in a peaceful, calming home, free from drama, with respect and understanding of people attempting to function normally, and others in their recovery. It has been long-rumored that SRHT has had employees who were “part of the problem” by either selling drugs to their tenants, allowing drug dealers/prostitutes in the buildings they managed and even letting loan sharks “violently collect debts”.
Will LAPD finally be successful? Only time will tell. But what is for sure is that Skid Row Housing Trust has run out of excuses and “the powers that be” are finally holding them accountable.
Hopefully, the resident-led fight for a positive and peaceful community will resonate with all the other hundreds of Skid Row non-profits who also have contributed to the negative environment in this 50-city block area- some by simply turning a blind eye and condoning the negative energy’s existence and others who also have blood on their hands.
Skid Row Housing Trust’s notices to all its tenants should be eye-opening to us all.
What has Skid Row REALLY been all this time?
(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles. Jeff’s views are his own. )