By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
The Ford is where Franklin saw his neighbor Doris Moore stabbed to death from his balcony. That’s not a new story either.
Chris Coates reports in the Downtown News that according to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Central Division, 322 registered sex offenders list their primary residence in central downtown. Three at the Ford Hotel, seven at the Panama Hotel, 17 at the Alexandria Hotel, 20 at the Ballington Plaza. For years, many of those released from the nearby Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers Correctional Facility went straight to Skid Row. And though I understand that everybody deserves a place to live, it seems fairly obvious that it’s not a great idea to have Franklin and his underage sisters in this mix.
Zelenne Cardenas, a striking, soft-spoken woman who shares the office with Charles Porter, is outraged. “The thing that slammed me is the amount of opposition that we have gotten from [hotel] owners,” Zelenne fumes. “Rather than cleaning up their locations and making them healthy, safe for the kids that live in there, we’ve seen the owners hire lawyer after lawyer to protect their right to keep the slum housing the way it is.”
Maybe it would help if Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Kumar cuddled up for a night or two in Franklin’s Ford Hotel bunk bed. And maybe it’s the toxicity that we’re warned against that has made Franklin’s 16-year-old neighbor, Maribel,as fidgety as a sparrow.
Maribel is a pretty Latina girl with her 9-month-old son named Alexander squirming on her lap. Her brown hair pulled back tightly, she hands off the baby to her friend as she matter-of-factly discloses that she moved here from Hollywood with her mom, dad, brother and sister after an eviction.
“We went right to the Ford Hotel. I was 12. I was crying a lot. I never saw anything like it. People doing drugs in front of everybody. Crack, coke and speed. It was nasty,” she remembers. “The hallways, they stink. They be stinking like crack .?.?. weed. I don’t want my baby to be seeing people smoking crack. Roaches. People all the way at the tops there are dirty. They don’t clean the rooms. There’s all trash inside the place. Roaches. Mices will come out of there. Crack heads, crazy people. I had never been around people like that. They smoke too much; they just get outta control. Bang on people’s doors. Talking mess to everybody. Starting fights. At first I was scared. Not no more. Now I’m used to it. Now I’m scared for the baby.”
Maribel’s baby’s daddy, Felix, lives in another hotel. They’re saving money to move back to Hollywood.
“I would not like him [the baby] to grow up here. He’s gonna be a year in three months and he’s gonna start walking pretty soon. I wanna go back to Hollywood. We were living near the Walk of Fame.”
Maribel is scared, but Carolyn Phillips is pissed off.
Carolyn Phillips is the directing attorney of the Los Angeles branch of the Homelessness Prevention Law Project, which operates under the auspices of Public Counsel, the largest pro-bono, public-interest law firm in the nation. Basically, they try to reduce the number of homeless people walking the earth.
Phillips is a bit of a bleeding heart, but she’s got huge lawyer nuts to go with it.
“It’s a disgrace for the richest country in the world to have children on Skid Row.”
That’s pretty obvious. So why can’t we do anything about it?
“A lot of people assume that people who are homeless are homeless because they don’t work or are homeless through some fault of their own,” she says. “That there are always issues related or substance abuse or mental illness. When you look at homeless families that’s not the case. What’s happened this year is a realization on the part of some of politicians as well as this agency that traditional notions of abuse and neglect simply don’t apply to homeless families.”
Some politicians? Is she talking about Antonio Villaraigosa? The new mayor of Los Angeles who’s spring-loaded to be the first meaningful national Latino spokesperson in .?.?. ever. Which is great, but what is he doing about the fact that Gladys Park down by Charles Porter’s place is still closed to kids? A couple of years ago, didn’t he and fellow Councilmember Jan Perry make a big deal about cleaning up the park so these kids could have recreational opportunities like other kids?
Phillips came up through the D.A.’s Office under the tutelage of juvenile-friendly assistant district attorney (and perennial threat to run for D.A.) Tom Higgins. So she knows what’s up with the Skids.
“They need to come up with a whole different category that enables them to link these children to health care and early education without finding that they’re being abused and neglected by their parents. That offers all kinds of hope. That’s gonna take political will.”
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