Stephen Young lives in a small studio apartment on the second floor of the King Edward Hotel, on the corner of Fifth and Los Angeles streets – right on the edge of Skid Row, where the waters of downtown's renewal lap up against abject poverty and depravity.
“It's pretty cool, mostly,” he says. “All the walls are made of concrete, so it works out. It's weirdly romantic.”
There's only one problem: People have been throwing bottles off of roofs. And they're not just beer bottles – more like big liquor bottles, Jameson whiskey and Christian Brothers brandy. Sometimes they're aimed at the bus stop, below Young's apartment. But sometimes they fly right at him. In February, a bottle smashed through his window. Others shatter on the ledge below.
“It shakes the whole apartment,” Young says. “The sound, it's like a bomb hitting.”
Senior lead officer Deon Joseph, a fixture around Skid Row, says he's heard a lot of complaints about bottles flying into the street.
“It’s been happening,” he says. “We’ve been getting complaints about it. We don’t know for sure [who's throwing the bottles]. It could be just one guy who chucks it for the thrill of it.”
Young was convinced the bottles were coming from a building across the street called the New Pershing, which provides permanent supportive housing (as well as three market-rate units) and is operated by the nonprofit Skid Row Housing Trust.
Skid Row Housing Trust owns dozens of buildings in Skid Row, a number of which are cloistered around the intersection of Fifth and Main streets. Many of these buildings provide supportive housing — apartments with social services on site.
At last count, there were nearly 47,000 homeless people in the county, a number that rose 5.7 percent from the previous year. Permanent supportive housing is widely seen as the most credible solution to the homeless crisis. Since state and local governments have thus far been reluctant to step in to pay for such a solution, nonprofits such as the Skid Row Housing Trust are the main providers for supportive housing.
One of the main fears, of course, is that residents of supportive housing don't make the best neighbors — fears that seemed to be borne out by Young's experience. Other residents and employees on the street confirmed to the Weekly that flying bottles are a regular occurrence.
Young first complained to the Skid Row Housing Trust in March. According to spokeswoman Heidi Genrich, the nonprofit investigated the issue but didn't come up with anything. Its representatives did not, however, talk to Young, at least not until this week, after L.A. Weekly called Skid Row Housing Trust for comment.
“We should have initially worked harder to follow up with Mr. Young personally,” Genrich says. “That is something we’re really sorry for.”
According to a written statement from Genrich:
After thoroughly investigating a complaint, it was determined that a resident at the New Pershing Apartments was responsible for throwing bottles. Every Trust resident signs a lease agreement, which details expected behaviors, guidelines and code of conduct within units and common areas. We have taken appropriate action based on those signed agreements, and have every confidence that this incident will not happen again.
Genrich declined to elaborate on what the “appropriate action” was and whether the perpetrator was evicted or not. She added: “We’ve been working hard to overhaul our management to avoid this situation in the future. We’ve hired a community manager to better address the community’s concerns.”