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.

LAHSA is right about Homeless dumping

LAHSA was asked about the problem of homeless hospital patients being driven to Skid Row, and left there because they have no homes to return to, in a LA TIMES article .

Permanent shelter beds, transitional shelters and low income housing – we need so many more of these facilities. We need them for the currently homeless and those soon to be.

On a personal opinion note: we need to employ these homeless folks – even if it is at the shelter agencies – and address the reasons they became homeless. Do you remember my 12 causes of homelessness that I wrote about before? I am referring to these issues such as
1. Drug addiction and substance abuse
2. Criminal history (did you know about expungement services? Call Legal Aid at (800) 483-6251
3. Mental Health issues
4. Co-occurring disorders (Mental illness and substance abuse)
5. Physical disability
6. Developmental issues (I’ve met a lot of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome babies who are now adults on the row)
7. Victims of violent crimes. – There are not enough Domestic Violence shelters out there and it still takes about 7 tries before the battered permanently leaves the home, sometimes in a body bag.
8. Members of a street culture or family.
etc, etc

Lamp Community Murder

I read this article about the shooting at the Lamp Lodge that happened yesterday morning. Because I know several of the tenants (see the Home Walk pictures from November – taken in front of The Lamp Lodge) I am urgently trying to find out who was involved.

Some facts that have been blurred

The Lamp Lodge is not a hotel, it used to be a hotel over 100 years ago and less than 30 years ago was renovated into 50 efficiency and one bedroom apartments with a tiny kitchen, toilet and showers in each unit. For over a year my office was apt 110 – so trust that I know my facts here.

“The Lodge”, as it is called by residents and locals, houses formerly homeless adults – most of whom have mental health and substance abuse issues. 14 of the units are “Shelter Plus Care Section 8” apartments.

There is an on sight manager and case managers installed in the building offering services but nothing is mandatory. Residents at The Lodge have stayed as long as 17 years although the average stay is less than five years. Once stability is established by a tenant of The Lodge it is hard to move because of financial constrictions. 90% of the tenants living there while I worked there were on SSI alone, 2 residents had absolutely no income, and three of them also held outside employment on a part time basis.

LAMP COMMUNITY is the agency that will be highlighted in the upcoming movie “The Soloist” with Jamie Foxx portraying Nathaniel. Lamp was created by two dynamic individuals, the surviving founder being Mollie Lowrey.

Mollie is no longer with Lamp Community and when she left, I feel the vision and the mission of the agency began to crumble. It began as an agency that met people “where they were at” and offered them services that they were free to decline without being shut out of the other benefits of the programs. Lamp has the only public toilets and showers on Skid ROw with adjoining laundry facilities. There is a drop in center, day center, shelters and long term residences. Lamp is also contracted to do some case management for A Community of Friends.

Tent City in the LA Area

Ontario Tent City is covered by the BBC press – even the rest of ther world knows tha California’s homeless population is growing , but there are few answers to address the situation. Sacramento has a large Tent City and of course, there is Skid Row Los Angeles.
More folks are homeless, more houses sit empty. The government is giving money to companies and not to housing – I have a few suggestions. LAter on I may share them.

Double Talk

“Wiley pointed out that the city offers a multitude of services for the homeless and recently unveiled a 12-point plan featuring a three-pronged approach of enforcement, intervention and prevention to deal with homelessness on the South Coast.”

3 prongs, 12 points – HUH?!? Be specific.
You know my favorite three words “Measurable, Observable, and Achievable” – tell me your plan.

I found this quote when I read about the city of Santa Barbara targeting the homeless with restrictive public laws about sleeping out doors etc.

It is never a crime to be homeless, it is just a crime to show the symptoms of homelessness such as not having a bed to sleep in or a private toilet to use.

Here is a link to the article from The Daily Sound. Please note the advert for a massage spa under the photo of homeless possessions.

Homeless news is changing so fast

So many new folks are becomming homeless, about 24% of the homeless are newly (in the last 2 months) homeless. There simply is not enough shelter for everyone and more jobs are needed. Tonight, I will give you a lowdown on the changes happening – funding wise as well as the reality of what it is like to go from being housed to being homeless and exactly how large the hurdle is to regaining housing status.

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