‘Humanitarian Crisis in Hollywood’: Chronic homelessness vs. the American Dream
Homelessness in Los Angeles has increased 43 percent in just four years. Skid Row, the epicenter of homelessness in the City of Angels, is home to approximately 2,500 people who live on the streets in a 49 square block area. It is the biggest concentration of homeless people in the United States. Overall, a staggering 60,000 people live without shelter in LA county.
Reverend Andy Bales is the CEO of the Union Rescue mission, which provides shelter to 1,000 people on any given night. He told Redfish Media about the appalling conditions in Skid Row, which, according to the most recent Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council action letter, is 80 restrooms shy of satisfying the minimum standards of a long-term refugee camp. It has nine permanent restrooms for 1,777 people, or one for every 197 homeless people, compared to the UN refugee camp standards of 20 per person.
Bales outlined just how dangerous this extreme lack of basic sanitation is. “I actually contracted three flesh-eating diseases E. coli, staph and strep from the sidewalks when I had a wound boot on and, after two years in a wheelchair I ended up losing my lower right leg. That is the condition of the health on Skid Row because of the shortage of restrooms. It really is a crisis.” Bales added that a certain strain of tuberculosis, which is not found anywhere else in the world, also thrives in the area.
The chronic conditions in Los Angeles and in other cities around America prompted the government to invite the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, to carry out inspections last year.
In his damning report, Alston said: “The United States is alone among developed countries in insisting that while human rights are of fundamental importance, they do not include rights that guard against dying of hunger, dying from a lack of access to affordable healthcare, or growing up in a context of total deprivation.”
Alston concluded that the “the American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion.” On Skid Row, the poverty and deprivation make it very hard for anyone to even believe in the illusion any more.