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Human Face on Skid Row

May 17, 1985

The homeless are starting to find shelter off the streets of Skid Row, thanks to steady work by determined individuals backed by the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency. But Los Angeles County has yet to do its share in helping provide temporary and permanent housing for these people.

Not all of the resistance is political. That was demonstrated when authorities were forced to evict the squatters of "Justiceville," including some who refuse to abide by the standards of shelters barring alcohol and drugs. And there are some people who seem unable to accept the help that they apparently need. But those are exceptions.

Six months ago the city's homeless demonstrated their plight by camping out within sight of both City Hall and the County Hall of Administration. That protest was led by the Homeless Organizing Team. In response, unions donated workers and materials to construct a temporary shelter, soon to move to a new location. In addition, nearly 300 new beds will be provided on two converted floors at the Weingart Center on 6th Street and through renovation of a building on San Pedro Street that is owned by Skid Row Development Corp.

Those projects house mainly men. Families and single women also need help. Las Familias del Pueblo, which runs a variety of programs on 6th Street, will operate a shelter for these groups in the Temple-Beaudry area near downtown. Using modular housing units, Las Familias hopes to have 100 beds ready by autumn. Renovation has just begun as well on a building that will provide permanent housing for 50 Skid Row women next door to the Downtown Women's Center on Los Angeles Street. Single Room Occupancy Corp. has also purchased three Skid Row hotels and is considering buying several others to make existing housing more livable. The redevelopment agency is also considering proposals for shelters in the San Fernando Valley, on the Westside and in South-Central Los Angeles.

Despite all this activity, there are still not enough beds. The task may never be accomplished unless the county agrees to contribute to operating costs to shelter those who are not eligible for the county housing vouchers that are now provided. Fortunately, the Community Redevelopment Agency has been making a strong commitment of money and leadership to the shelter emergency. The agency has set an appropriate example with its commitment to showing a human face while giving Skid Row a facelift.

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