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Are Hipsters in Downtown L.A. Pushing Out The Homeless?

Skid Row, Los Angeles.
Skid Row, Los Angeles.
Abhijit Patil

Is the new wave of hipsters, yuppies and loft-dwellers who have moved en masse to downtown L.A. in the last decade pushing out the longtime locals known as the homeless? It sure looks like it. At least on paper.

Recent U.S. Census figures parsed by blogdowntown show that the area gained 15,000 residents in the last decade while population surpassed the 50,000 mark.

At the same time, the number of homeless, at least according to official counts, have continued to decrease in recent years:

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority counted 20,023 homeless in "metro Los Angeles" in 2005, 22,030 in 2007 and 11,093 in 2009.

Skid Row L.A. during the day.
Skid Row L.A. during the day.
IK's World Trip

In the city of Los Angeles the numbers have gone down from 48,103 in 2005 to 40,144 in 2007 to 24,915 in 2009. That's a loss of 23,188 people. New, 2011 numbers are due in June.

LAHSA, which is the official handler of regional government money for homeless issues in L.A., says the numbers reflect its success, even in this economy, in spreading services out beyond Skid Row and helping to develop affordable housing.

"One of the things that has had an impact is development of permanent supportive housing and affordable housing in the city of L.A.," LAHSA director Michael Arnold told the Weekly.

"The last time we did a count there were 1000 permanent supportive housing units in production or online, with another 1,500 in the pipeline citywide," he said. " ... All of this has worked together to create a situation where, concurrent with the redevelopment of downtown, we've seen a reduction in the homeless population."

But ...

 

The homeless scene at Los Angeles Street.
The homeless scene at Los Angeles Street.
HappyMac

... Alice Callaghan has a street-level view as director of Las Familias del Pueblo homeless services center in Skid Row. And she begs to differ.

She thinks the numbers prove that newcomers have helped to displace the homeless downtown, with the help of the LAPD.

"The city has been busy purifying the public sidewalks," she says. "The police presence is outrageous. If you're poor and standing on the street near a new, gentrified place on

Main the police will tell you that if you're still there when they come back you're going to jail."

What's more, Callaghan argues, redevelopment has directly affected homeless housing, with three hotels on the edge of Skid Row that used to cater to transients -- the Cecil, the Rosslyn, the Frontier and the Genesis -- going more upscale.

"In the last couple years we have lost more than 1,000 units on skid row for the poor. This is a significant loss of housing ... they've eliminated units on the Row for the poor."

Callaghan says many homeless who called downtown home now live along the banks of the L.A. River.


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