Follow up on LAMP

Homeless people die all the time. I think they die at an average age that is more typical of third world nations instead of at the 70 or 80 years old that you an I expect to be.

I have found a couple of dead bodies, my own self, while working The Row. The most disturbing discovery was finding a man who had passed away about a week before I discovered him. I have seen Homeless Citizens in L.A. dead of exposure, overdose, malnutrition, HIV, AIDs, complications from surgery, suicide, other diseases, and of course – murder.

Most Homeless Murders are not instances of little ladies taking out insurance policies on homeless men then murdering them for profit. Nor are they Bum-fights videos gone and, or hate crimes where homeless folk are burned to death. Yes, those have certainly happened in the past few years. Death and murder on The Row are more commonly the result of criminal activity over territory, money, or drugs.

Territory, Money, Drugs. Sounds like a gang thing, right? Well, it is. The 9 blocks of Skid Row are easy pickings for the local gangs. Most homeless adults are mentally ill, and some of them self medicate with alcohol and drugs in place, or in addition to, psychotropic medication. Skid Row isn’t near the Mexico boarder and there is nowhere for drug planes from Columbia to land with direct shipments – so how are these people getting their drugs delivered to them? Gangs.

Street dealers make a killing – figuratively and literally – dealing to addicts on The Row. I have seen these situations:
*They wait right outside the drug treatment centers waiting for their once and future clients to be released from any drug rehab in the area.
* Sometimes they secure employment working for charity and shelter agencies and develop a client list of people they know, and how trust them. It is easy to intimidate customers when you are “STAFF” as well as the pusher.
* They set up tents across from low income housing and tempt the residents to come visit.
* They roll up in Mercedes on SSI check day and throw open their doors in the middle of the street and deal from the cars.
* They gang bang, claim territory and occasionally buildings as their exclusive area to deal from.

When I worked at LAMP I had some odd and unique experiences with the gang members and dealers. The best was the night that my car battery dies and the local drug pusher jumped my battery and told me not to show up at work again until I could prove to him that I had a cell phone – in case he wasn’t around to keep a nice white girl like me safe next time. The most awkward experience was making payment arrangements between the dealers and the customers who bought “Crack on Credit” and couldn’t afford to pay “The Dentist”. I taught the local pusher to write receipts and took him to Starbucks in Little Tokyo where I discussed the building I was working from at the time. The Lamp Lodge.

We discussed that the residents there had all been homeless but were really working to have nicer, healthier, lives, That they deserved a safe place to live, and the residents who did not engage in drugs or were trying to stay clean deserved to feel like The Lodge was a haven from all of that. We agreed that he would still sell to anyone who came to him, but he would do business out of sight of the building.

The property manager and advocates (on sight social workers) worked hard to keep any use invisible and undetectable to the rest of the building and wrote housing violations for tenants and eventually evicted some who chose drugs over housing.

It is always a hard choice to evict someone from an apartment and make them homeless again – especially when the company you work for is designed to end homelessness. But safety has to be honored and someone dealing drugs from their living room is not attempting to improve their life. Keeping them housed is subsidizing crime and inviting the drug element into your building.

This is what happened to The Lamp Lodge. A Homeless man wasn’t murdered on Easter, a HOUSED ADULT MALE was chased out of a room, across a hall, through a window and shot where he hid from a drug dealer.

Eight days ago The Lamp Lodge was home to at least three drug dealers. The management knew it, the tenants knew it, and they tried to tell LAMP several times and wrote a petition to have the situation addressed. The tenants feel ignored.

Two men were murdered in a drug and territory fight at The Lamp Lodge.

Imagine this building was on the corner of your street. Ignore the fact that it was on the corner of Seventh and Stanford in Los Angeles. Don’t think about the fact that the building is owned by LAMP – who is about to be spotlighted in The Soloist – don’t think about the residents as low income and perhaps living with mental illnesses. If you lived in an apartment building where drug dealers and users walked in and out 24 hours a day and felt free enough to be crowded around tables in apartments whose front doors were wide open for you to see – how mad would you be? If you asked the landlord to enforce the security rules already in place and make sure the front door closed and locked – but nothing happened – how scared would you be to live there? If you asked your therapist to help you through confronting your landlord and asking for changes – but the landlord (who has always told you that they believe in mental health services) refuses to speak to you if the therapists is in the room, would you feel disrespected? If you asked for a copy of your lease agreement and were told you could not have one because they were changing the rules in the agreement tomorrow – would you feel disrespected?

You would move out, right?

What if you did not have enough money to move out? What if you were on Section 8 Shelter Plus Care and were desperate to move into another building but HUD said you would have to become homeless first, and so you are asleep in your bed while a neighbor is hunted and murdered less than 100 feet from where you lay?

For 40 people that I know, this is not a hypothetical “What If” question – this is the truth of The Lamp Lodge and the Easter Sunday double murder.

I have video and audio of them talking about their frustrations, as soon as I discover how to upload them, I will share them with you – and I will dare the powers that be to continue ignoring the needs of the tenants.

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