Moving L.A.'s Homeless Away from Skid Row

Drugs and violent crime are a way of life on Skid Row.

hide captionDrugs and violent crime are a way of life on Skid Row.

Union Rescue Mission
Women and children usually get priority for shelter beds, but there are never enough to house everyo

hide captionWomen and children usually get priority for shelter beds, but there are never enough to house everyone.

Union Rescue Mission
Every night in downtown Los Angeles, thousands of people line sidewalks to sleep.

hide captionEvery night in downtown Los Angeles, thousands of people line sidewalks to sleep.

Union Rescue Mission

An estimated 90,000 people in Los Angeles County are homeless, and about 11,000 of those live downtown in an area of less than one square-mile known as Skid Row.

County and city officials recently unveiled two major plans to fight homelessness. Both call for moving people out of Skid Row — but many of the county's far-flung communities have not put out the welcome mat.

There are many large homeless shelters in Skid Row, but the sheer need is overwhelming. At night, the sidewalks of entire city blocks in the mostly industrial areas just east of the city center are lined with tents and impromptu shelters.

But there are ambitious plans to change that. A Los Angeles city plan calls for spreading services to some of the other 87 cities in the county, at a cost of $12 billion over 10 years. Likewise, the County Board of Supervisors plans to spend $100 million right away, setting up emergency shelters away from Skid Row.

The Union Rescue Mission, the largest homeless shelter on Skid Row, has its own plans to move more than 250 women and children to a former retirement community in the hills of northern Los Angeles County — 71 exquisitely landscaped acres now called Hope Gardens.

Andy Bales, director of the Union Rescue Mission, says the open space can itself be a healing touch. He thinks of it as a "Psalm 23 experience," where people who have been abandoned can lie down beside still waters.

Marlene Rader and her neighbors, however, are hoping to stop the plan. She says the new shelter, just a couple of miles away from her home, wouldn't be a "good fit" with the rural area.

"It's not that I'm objecting to helping people," she says. "It's too big — they could basically house all of Skid Row up here if they chose to."

Many residents of another nearby community called Lake View Terrace, on the other hand, think it's a good plan and generally support the Hope Gardens project.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: