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Skid Row (wikipedia.org)
54 points by gyosifov on May 25, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 31 comments

What struck me reading this is all the issues SF and LA have had around housing and homelessness are not new — and, more importantly, the knee-jerk reaction of “cleaning the streets” (a nicer way to say incarceration) every-other city council has tried simply does not work.

The real solution is potentially more expensive, less immediate, and less politically feasible. Build more housing: build more public housing, more market rate housing, more publicly-subsidized private housing, affordable housing, luxury housing, social housing, mixed-income housing — just build!

But don’t stop there, the city should provide support not just to those currently living on skid row, but to private caretakers, nonprofits, churches, property developers, business owners, everyone in the area.

The solution won’t be cheap by any measure, so why cut corners? Go all the way.

More housing won't help if they don't _want_ housing.

I lived on the streets for awhile and _many_ people did not want homes, they wanted comfort, food, happiness, forget their pain, booze, drugs, entertainment.... a house? Nope.

Now what do you do with those people?

We don't really need to worry about those people. Let's just build enough housing for those who want housing. That at least shrinks the problem.

Let's do what reasonably can be done and follow the 80/20 rule and take care of the majority of the problem that is relatively easily resolved, thereby freeing up more resources for the short list of really, really hard cases.

> We don't really need to worry about those people. Let's just build enough housing for those who want housing. That at least shrinks the problem.

I’m not sure it does shrink the problem, though.

LA is a city, and people come to cities for opportunity. That extends to the indigent as well, and public spaces have a capacity in the same way that traditional housing has a capacity.

Logistics aside, if you were to successfully move 80% of the homeless population of Skid Row into permanent or semi-permanent housing is there are reason to believe that more homeless people wouldn’t simply move in to fill the void?

To be clear, I’m not arguing against charity or even against providing state resources for these people (at least, not in this post). I’m narrowly challenging the implicit argument that doing so is an effective way to reduce the number of homeless people on the streets in a defined area.

If the problem you’re trying to solve is “help those who need and desire help”, the solution is straightforward. If the problem is “change the fact that a large number of homeless people are living on publicly-accessible land in a major city”... I’m honestly not sure there is a viable solution. The options seem to range from accepting the situation and ignoring it to forcibly removing people from those areas and continuing to use to force to prevent them from returning.

I’m narrowly challenging the implicit argument that doing so is an effective way to reduce the number of homeless people on the streets in a defined area.

And you are more or less cherry picking which comments of mine can be misinterpreted to mean "just build more housing in LA in specific and this solves homelessness in LA in specific." I stated elsewhere that we have been under building housing nationwide for decades. Obviously, we need more housing generally to make headway here.

It won't solve the problem entirely. But it is a crucial step that needs to happen to have any hope of solving the problem. We need more housing generally so we can stop having insane housing prices and stop pushing people out into the streets to begin with because homeless prevention is vastly more effective, cheaper and better in most cases than "helping the homeless."


But we do need to worry about those people when those people may be a large percentage of the people on the streets. These people are deep into the throws of mental illness, addiction, or both. What do you do to help people who don’t want to help themselves? It’s a very difficult problem and I don’t know if there is an easy solution that doesn’t infringe on people’s rights. You can’t make being homeless illegal and state conservatorship seems dystopian.

There is a clear connection between housing costs and rate of homelessness.


This country has an inadequate supply of housing nationwide. We have generally been under building housing for decades, then we act like our homeless population is just a bunch of "junkies and crazies."

When I say "we don't need to worry about them," I mean the existence of people who are homeless by choice should not be an excuse to keep not building adequate housing and justify punishing those who do want housing on the excuse that "some of y'all losers don't even want housing."

I spent nearly six years homeless. I've studied this problem space. I am actively developing information resources and best practices.

"Build more housing -- especially stuff like Missing Middle Housing" is the short answer to a large part of this.

Healthcare availability is another factor that makes a difference and help connecting to earned income that works for them in spite of handicaps and so forth. Earning money online is part of how I made progress on my issues and got myself back into housing.

Those who need more support than just housing (and I’d assume that could be many!) should be able to have it provided for them — I am sure the lines get murky if someone claims to not want to get helped, but I am also sure there is a way to still provide it humanely — anything is a step forward from the present conditions of homelessness and/or incarceration, at this point

For what it’s worth, I don’t think anyone is arguing that the present state of things is optimal.

The approach I’ve taken in the past to these issues is to simply treat people as people worthy of fair treatment, do what I can personally to help, and provide what resources I’m able to provide to support organizations that I believe to be effective in helping people.

The parable of the starfish seems to apply: if you walk down a beach covered with starfish dying in the sun, you have no means available to save all of them. You can only put the ones you encounter back into the sea. It doesn’t solve the problem as a whole, but it makes a difference to the ones you’re able to save.

Or, from a Judeo-Christian perspective; “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be … For the poor you will always have with you in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11)

I take this to mean that helping those who need help is the responsibility of every individual, within that individual’s means. I also take it to mean that it is a problem where one should not expect a neat resolution; no matter how much you give or how many people give alongside you, there will always be more that can (and should) be done. The purpose of the commandment to help the poor is not to eliminate poverty, but to provide an ongoing means of spiritually enriching all parties involved.

I know that the things I’ve done for others have lead to personal growth in both myself and the people I’ve come to know through those actions.

I’m still trying to integrate the apparent contradiction that some of the smallest sacrifices I’ve made have had some of the largest impacts. Several times my wife and I have given substantial monetary gifts to individuals and organizations - they’re important and I in no way mean to dissuade someone from doing that, but at the end of the day it feels like the phrase “it’s just money” seems to apply. On the other hand, the single most impactful thing I’ve ever done was to pick someone up who was walking down the highway in my small town. I had some time that day and ended up not only taking them where they was going (home), but spending about two hours afterward taking them to run a handful of errands that would have taken them at least a full day to accomplish without a vehicle - to the DMV for a replacement license, to a staffing agency to sign up, and to the grocery store to pick up a few essentials. In that case I wasn’t even able to help them pay for groceries due to my own financial situation... but months later, that same person flagged me down and told me - with tears in their eyes - that the fact that I took the time to help them was a major factor in their deciding not to attempt suicide and to seek help. That was a bit over two years ago, and while that person is still dealing with their personal demons, they are no longer regularly using hard drugs, have reconciled with their family, and are living with an elder relative to help care for them.

I am by no means a sociological expert, but I think it is safe to assume a large majority of homeless do not want to be homeless; I’ll defer to those who have dedicated their lives to the fixing the issue of homelessness on how to remediate that special case, if it is indeed a significant concern.

I think thebradbrain is talking more about a longer timeframe here. Nobody is born with the goal to become homeless and therefore eliminating the factors that cause homelessness before the people actually end up on the street should be the focus.

The factors that cause homelessness are not only material, but psychological and social as well.

A mentally ill or socially isolated or outcast person won't be necessarily less so just because they have a roof over their head.

I once met a man who's only social contacts were other homeless people around him. He shared his food with them, although this might have not been reciprocated. This feeling of giving something was important to him, even though it seems one cannot be friends with other homeless people. Other than this, he had absolutely no one who cared about him. He got into psychotic episodes and had a criminal record.

I met another man who once had it all, and then lost it, money, purpose, love, meaning. These people are utterly lost, forgotten, neglected at a spiritual, psychological and physical level. Drugs rob them of their agency. They were forced to see behind the memeplex that is society, with its values and ideals and virtues that only exist when one is privileged enough to live away from the chaos that is reality.

They have personalities or had experiences that are not compatible with a civilized society, their human desires cannot be constrained by teachings of morality or even the abstract threat of state violence. They are extreme risk takers, or have sociopsychological differences/difficulties, different modes of thought, sometimes temporary, sometimes induced due to traumatizing life circumstances or drug use.

> the memeplex that is society

This concept stands out to me. Is this phrasing something I’d not encountered before, and it looks like there’s a whole are of anthropology that I’ve somehow overlooked to this point.

I have some reading to do :)

For some people the only way to live free is to become "homeless", which is really just a consequence of not living up to anyone else's standards.

A secondary group are families temporarily homeless due to adverse life conditions. Those can be helped by providing a semi-temporary place to stay. I'm all for this.

But the primary cause of homelessness is a mental health problem, largely brought on (but not entirely) by drug addiction[0]. Building housing may help, but individuals who are mentally well and want to live indoors can find housing, it doesn't have to be in SF or LA if cost is the issue.

The infrastructure for supporting addicts and those with clinical and severe mental health issues is at odds with the State's position that virtually prevents anyone being from admitted to an institution without their direct consent. In California, it is very difficult to admit someone to a mental hospital involuntarily. A police officer may deliver a person to a mental hospital and that hospital has 72 hours to evaluate them. Once evaluated, the hospital has to either get a judge's order to admit them, or let them go. Given that the entire state has only 6,000 psychiatric hospital beds, vs. 150,000 homeless in the state, this is seldom done:

"On or previous to the expiration of the 72 hours, the psychiatrist must assess the person to see if they still meet criteria for hospitalization. If so, the person may be offered a voluntary admission. If it is refused, then another hold for up to 14 days, the 5250 (WIC-5250), must be written to continue the involuntary confinement of the person. A Certification Review Hearing (W&I 5256) must occur within four days before a judge or hearing officer to determine whether probable cause exists to support the 5250. Alternatively, the person can demand a writ of habeas corpus to be filed for their release after they are certified for a 5250, and once filed, by law, the person must appear in front of a judge in two (2) days, which is two days sooner than the Certification Review Hearing."

[0] https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-10-10/homelessnes...

[1] https://www.stimmel-law.com/en/articles/involuntary-commitme...

> The infrastructure for supporting addicts and those with clinical and severe mental health issues is at odds with the State's position that virtually prevents anyone being from admitted to an institution without their direct consent.

IMO, this is a good thing.

First, the idea of involuntary commitment is antithetical to the concept of individual rights. Even if you accept that there are times when it is necessary, granting that power to the state is to me unacceptable. This is a political stance, of course, and arguing politics isn’t what I want to do here so I’ll just leave it at that.

Second, I have found that no amount of help will solve a mental health problem if the person themselves doesn’t want the problem to be solved. Speaking from personal experience on both sides of this issue - someone must want to change before whether or not they can do so without assistance is relevant. Providing assistance to people who do not want to change is at best a waste of resources and at worst enabling them to continue a self-destructive cycle that they would have otherwise been forced to change by circumstance.

Because of the above, I strongly oppose legal mechanisms for involuntary commitment as a civil action.

Do you believe that the current state of homelessness in California is a problem that needs to be solved? I am not advocating involuntary commitment. I am strongly advocating for a solution that works. So far, the problem does not appear to be solvable by the groups responsible to solve it.

I'm not convinced that it is a problem than can be solved.

Please don't mistake that for advocacy that we do nothing, because that is not at all my intention.

I've been there with a van full of sandwiches and juice boxes for extra credit for some underwater basket weaving class. The food was gone in 10 minutes, with some getting portions for their immediate and extended families. Other than the obvious mental illness many were facing, some were nice enough to line up.

Nice interviews, thanks!

As non-native english speaker I liked the one with the mafia boss ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjwnDF2dRgI ) as he was talking nicely. Others use a lot of slang and/or people get stuck from time to time ("and you know..., well, I did.., I did..., well, the thing is..." => this makes me nervous).

Seems like a great channel, thanks!

My disappointment when the article wasn't about the demo/cracking-scene group Skid Row. :/

Anyone who ever owned an Amiga probably remembers the group. Their cracktros were really cool.

I used some of their PC game cracks! Their cool cracktros is what made me remember their name

They still exist and are as good as they used to be! The only caveat these days is downloading 60GB ISO is not as appealing.

Why not? People using Steam download that much or even more all the time.

Damn, I was trying to remember where I heard the term (a band? a song? a game?), hehehe... . This is it, thanks!!!

Or the band.

There is an interesting documentary narrated by Charles Bukowski called "The Best Hotel on Skid Row" from 1990, you can find it on YouTube.

A better title for this link is "Skid Row, Los Angeles" per the page title.

In the Pacific Northwest there's a longstanding debate about the origin of the term -- afaik both Seattle and Victoria claim primacy of the term, which is originally related to logging. As I understand it, these neighborhoods were first named Skid Row because of the logging, and due to economic realities, the name became associated with poverty and then spread to other towns without significant logging industries.


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