By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
At the end of the day Bratton has an old-school, East Coast Democrat’s sensibility. He’s kind of like a Kennedy with an LAPD badge and without the alcoholism.
“I’m coming out of two cities that have dealt with this problem more effectively than has been done here up to this point,” Bratton says. “That’s Boston and New York. New York devotes billions of dollars to this problem and has seen significant improvement. So you make progress. The idea is to not give up hope, because there are changes and some of our statistics reflect those changes. Until recently, we didn’t have the admission of what Skid Row is — the worst social problem in America.
“It took 50 years to make it what it is down there, so it’s going to take a while to basically deal with 50 years of benign neglect and the intentional location of the poorest of the poor,” the chief continues, and it’s hard to stop him when he’s on a roll. “Skid Row for most of its history was accomplishing exactly what the city wanted it to do; it kept that problem out of sight of the people that counted in the city — the power brokers who go home to Brentwood and the Valley every night. Now all of a sudden the area down there has become much more valuable and the eyes of the rich are much more focused on it.
“It reminds me of the old Humphrey Bogart movie Casablanca, where Claude Rains says, ‘I’m shocked, simply shocked to find gambling going on.’ Well, you have to laugh because, after 50 years, the leadership in this city is all of a sudden shocked to find out that there are 7,000 people living on [Skid Row].?.?. . Temper the cynicism with the idea of seeing where things have gotten better. .?.?. Are they gonna be totally solved? Not in our lifetime. Life is just not that fair; it’s just not that just. But it can in fact improve.”
I hope I can become as hopeful as Bratton. I’m not.
But Darrell is. A relentless optimist, Darrell says he wants to be an astronomer. The 14-year-old looks like a normal, well-adjusted kid to the naked eye. Vibrant, articulate, engaging. You’d never know .?.?. if he didn’t say.
“You feel like the best place you can go is to sleep,” he says about his stay at the Union Rescue Mission, “cuz .?.?. anything would be better than where you are.”
Darrell says he and his family used to live near the Magic Johnson movie theater in the Crenshaw District and all go to the same church. Then, same story: single mom with kids gets evicted and has no place to go but the Row.
“We were at the mission for a month and a half and then the church got us some vouchers for a hotel for a couple nights,” says Darrell. “Then we went to my godmother’s house but things didn’t work out and we came back down here to the mission. Before that, I was up there in North Hollywood. Me and another family I know. We was counting on a voucher to get a place to stay for the night and the lady didn’t give us one. And we had nowhere to go for the whole night. That was like broke-down homeless. Like po’ homeless. Like po’, po’ homeless.”
Darrell pauses. He’s self-conscious in an adolescent way. And more .?.?. the stigma of his homelessness is stuck to him like an invisible film.
“I was, like, crying. I was like man. I was fixing to like blow up a lot of stuff when I grew up, too. I was 12. I was going to find that lady [who evicted them] and do what Hitler did to the Jews to her. Maybe worse. I was thinking I’d put her on a desolate island .?.?. send a nuclear bomb.”
Kids are incredibly adaptable. As with Franklin and Maribel, the initial shock of Skid Row wore off quickly for Darrell.
“I heard people were jumping from hotel buildings. People were getting killed in the Rescue Mission. But besides that .?.?. after the third time I went to the mission, I was like, this place is kinda safe though. Cuz, like, the police went through every street like 10 times in three minutes, so everyone is scared. All you have to worry about is, like, don’t do crack and you’ll be okay.”
Darrell now lives in Lincoln Heights. He has his own room for the first time ever.
Apparently he’s doing better than Joey and his “dad,” DJ Romeo. I haven’t seen them or Darleneor Karina for days. A large woman with three kids staying at the Union Rescue Mission told me they were kicked out of that mission for good. She says somebody gave them a hotel voucher for a couple months or something. Says Romeo beats her up. Someone else told me that Romeo got them kicked out of another hotel for selling drugs. Another says that the kids got taken away from Darlene after she left them alone in a hotel. Probably for the best. Who knows? People talk a lot of shit down here.