By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Political will? She must be talking about Tony V. again. I just saw him on TV giving a speech in Spanish from his house after the State of the Union address. It was a really nice place and his kids looked real polite. Maybe Joey and Karina can kick it with them until Darlene and DJ Romeo get their shit straight and find a pad. I know he’s gonna wanna help out. He’s the mayor.
She goes on: “If the political will was there, we could mobilize county and city cooperation to move families, and therefore children, into housing while other solutions are being figured out.”
Yeah, the political will. Great. But what about my friend Joey camped out in the Midnight Mission’s courtyard in the middle of the festering wound known as City Central?
“Honestly,” Phillips says, “and I don’t want Joey to ever read my scenario for him, but I spent so much time in the D.A.’s Office and in juvenile court that I think it’s just a matter of time until Joey runs away and becomes prey, a victim of crime. Or until he thinks that maybe committing a crime is his way out or Mom loses him to true neglect to the foster care system .?.?. and he’s stuck in that. Unless somebody comes and offers housing and transportation to get Joey into school, Joey doesn’t have a chance. Joey needs school and sports. All of them need sports, school, normalcy, love and routine. He needs to have a bed and place to keep his things. We need to have the political will not to blame these families and children.”
It’s going to take lots of that famous political will. I’ve been living down here for a while now. I’m not sure the prognosis is good.
Police Chief Bill Bratton begs to differ. He helped Mayor Rudy Giuliani take a Brillo pad to New York City in the early ’90s after years of neglect under the stewardship of party-boy press darling Mayor Ed Koch and his bumbling successor, David N. Dinkins.
“One of the probably saddest things about our Skid Row, if you will, is that it’s home to so many families and young people,” Bratton says. “And that compounds the problems immensely. It’s not one problem; it’s a multiplicity of problems and one impacts the other. It’s like a set of dominoes. One domino falls and the whole thing falls.”
“It’s not just in Skid Row; it’s society in general, but in Skid Row it’s exacerbated,” he continues. “So much of what goes on down there is really not the responsibility of the police, but in the absence of so many other social agencies in terms of our being around 24 hours a day and many others being there with less frequent hours, a lot of things end up falling on us.”
Of course, but what about Franklin and Maribel and Joey and all the little kids I see running around down here? What if one of those people who seem to be jumping out of welfare hotel windows all the time falls on one of them?
“Well, in being quite frank with you, my own desire would be to get them out of there. Families should not be made to navigate the streets of Skid Row in the way they currently have to only for the fact that the services they need are located there,” says Bratton. “The city is consciously putting resources down there .?.?. has centralized them down there and I think they are gonna have to decentralize some of those services and in fact segregating some of the services on account of the clients that they have to serve.”
I think I may be spending a bit too much time in the shelters myself, as I have recently contracted some kind of staph infection, and it all seems like an irresolvable situation that is going to end badly for everyone involved, except perhaps for the people who make a living off the misery. And just when I’m about to get in a real funk over this Skids stuff, the chief busts me.
“That’s part of the problem of Skid Row. Skid Row tends to breed frustration and negativism and ultimately surrender.”
I can see how it happens.
“It’s something that I’ve approached as a police chief and I’ve always refused to surrender to that degree of frustration,” Bratton says. “I’m actually a little more optimistic now than at any time since I’ve been here that there does seem to be a confluence of forces that may in fact result in some significant improvements, but the reality is that a rising tide doesn’t raise all boats. Some sink. Young people have to be first priority. That’s what I’m talking about in terms of segregation, you know, getting families and kids out of there before they go into trauma. In terms of those who are already in trauma, some you can save and some you can’t.”
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