How bad have conditions gotten on L.A.’s Skid row? So bad that the Los Angeles County Health Department declared them a danger to public health because of the growing amount of human feces, dirty syringes, used condoms and small mountains of garbage piling up sidewalks and gutters, garbage that’s been supporting a growing population of rats.
In response to conditions, Antonio Villaraigosa ordered a massive clean-up of skid row. For the next two to three weeks, L.A. Department of Public Works personnel, backed up by the LA police and fire departments, will methodically move street by street, tossing out garbage and pressure washing filth from sidewalks. As the cleaning continues, homeless people are being asked to move their belongings. Items that aren’t moved will be collected and stored for 90 days. If they aren’t picked up, they’ll be destroyed.
The skid row cleanup, like similar actions in the past, raises sensitive issues about the rights of the homeless and how to balance concerns for public health and safety with individual dignity. A lot of debate swirls around a court injunction that the city argues make it difficult to throw out the possessions of homeless people to get a handle on skid row’s squalor.
I went to skid row to see the clean-up in process for myself and talk people about whether it’s a good idea. Two men who live there had strongly opposing views about the city’s cleanup of skid row. Listen: