Friday, July 13, 2007

From the L.A.P.D. Blog

An article by Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph LAPD Central Division. He talks about the quality of life for both the homeless and the residents around the homeless. Big issue for us here in Venice.

The homeless population has a huge affect on the residents that they live around it becomes the quality of life issue for both sides street dwellers and residents.

"......Like any community, they desire litter free streets, and responsible behavior from those who live, work, or visit this area...."
We too Living in Venice would like to have litter free and most of all human feces and urine free streets and alleys this affects all of us who live work and visit this area.

The street dwellers use our streets as their toilets we feel this is a huge health problem for all. We urge our city health department to address these issues seriously.
".....human waste on the sidewalk, creating one of the unhealthiest environments in the City of Los Angeles..."

A Skid Row Cop's Opinion - 6

To Feed or Not to Feed, An Important Question.

Hello again. I am Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph. I am the Lead Officer of Skid Row. My duties do not just include crime prevention, but the quality of life issues that affect the homeless community. Many people outside of the skid row realm tend to look at this area as a quasi community. The thing they fail to realize is that there are good law-abiding people here whether they are street dwellers or residents of low income housing who see skid row as a true community in every sense of the word. Like any community, they desire litter free streets, and responsible behavior from those who live, work, or visit this area.

Community members voice their concerns to me on a daily basis. One of their major concerns is the feeding of the homeless by outside groups. Their hearts are in the right place, but the results of their activities contribute to the poor quality of life for the skid row community.

Throughout the week, and particularly on the weekends, large groups of caring individuals come from all over the county to drop off food and bags of clothing on Skid Row to those they perceive to be in need of such items. These individuals come from all faiths and walks of life to do their good work.

But they never hang around long enough to see the aftermath of their activity. They are oblivious to the realities of the skid row area. My goal in writing this as in all of my writing is to educate people, not embarrass them or ridicule their good intentions (unless I discover their intentions are not good at all). It is being done to show them how they can be of better service to this community in a more responsible and orderly fashion.

One of the myths surrounding the skid row area is that the homeless here are starving. I am sure you have heard public service announcements on radio stations and television depicting the people here as being malnourished and without clothes.

The truth is that no one goes hungry on skid row. Within my area there are several missions that serve food three times a day to the poor and homeless members of our community. The average person on skid row can eat up to four times a day. Within these shelters, anyone who desires to drop off clothing to the homeless can do so. Since I have worked in skid row, I have never observed anyone die of starvation or go without clothing unless they did so of their own free will, or as a result of mental illness or drug addiction.

Though these truths exist, homeless feeders still come down to skid row by the dozens and give out paper bags full of food, and throw plastic bags full of clothing onto the sidewalks. They do not recognize that one of the driving forces keeping many of the homeless on skid row is the flourishing narcotics trade. When they are finished doing their good work, the homeless individuals in question remove their halos and begin bartering their food items and clothing for narcotics. Since most of them have already eaten, most of the containers and food provided to them end up on the sidewalk and street, where rats, and other vermin feed throughout the night. The clothing ends up spread throughout the corridors of my designated area, causing skid row to look like the city dump. When these streets look like a dump, people are more inclined to dump other items such as sanitary napkins and human waste on the sidewalk, creating one of the unhealthiest environments in the City of Los Angeles. Sometimes glass items are given to the homeless in the form of soda or other refreshments. These items are later used as weapons that cause injuries to other homeless individuals. Fights often break out over these items as they are being distributed, not because they are desperate for food or clothing, but because they trying to find the best item to sell for money in order to buy crack cocaine, heroin, or marijuana.

There are also environmental issues to be considered, such as biodegradable and non-biodegradable items ending up in storm drains throughout the area and hurting our environment.

These are just some of the ugly images that community members, service providers, and officers are faced with long after the feedings are done. Central Police Officers in partnership with community members have tried to express these concerns to numerous groups that engage in this activity. All efforts have fallen on deaf ears, primarily due to the perception that law enforcement is somehow against helping the homeless, and desire to 'criminalize' anyone trying to do something that in their mind is positive for a marginalized social class. This is far from the truth. Some cities across the nation are creating ordinances, and laws that would prohibit homeless feeding. We believe that these laws are extreme, insensitive, and send a message that those helping the needy deserve punishment. Yet, when our words of truth continue to fall on deaf ears, the end result becomes enforcement because we cannot allow this activity to continue and cause the decay of the skid row area.

Enforcement is not the direction we seek to take on these issues. We are seeking voluntary cooperation with these groups. We desire for feeding groups to come to the table with us and discuss this important issue. If you do not believe the things I say because of my uniform (which I proudly wear none the less), we will have community members, and service providers who help the homeless on a 24 hours basis at our meeting, who will tell you how this activity hurts their community.

Service providers have offered to open their doors to allow groups to work out of their facility and volunteer their services to help the homeless. In doing so, two things would occur: First, more homeless individuals would go to the missions for the services they need. Secondly, food items and clothing would be distributed in a more orderly fashion, which would minimize fights, and improve the quality of life on the streets of skid row.

If you do not desire to work with the missions, I would ask that you be more responsible for your actions by sticking around and cleaning up after every feeding. Pick up the clothing left on the street after the homeless have had their pick. Community members have been placing trashcans on street corners throughout the skid row area to assist you with that.

In closing, it has been the goal of the Safer Cities Initiative to better the lives of the skid row community through enforcement, enhancement, and outreach. Your LAPD Central Officers are one small part of the solution to end homelessness by releasing the grip of crime in the area that keeps many homeless people on an endless downward spiral. We welcome the open hearts and minds of anyone with the desire to assist us in this effort in a humane and sensible way that does not hurt the lives or quality of life for the homeless community.

As always, I offer challenges to those who may not agree with me to come and see for themselves the things that I speak of. I am particularly asking those that engage in homeless feedings to please contact me at 213-793–0740 or E-mail me at I along with the City Attorney and Skid Row residents would like to meet and dialogue with you in the near future. Please understand that we are not against you. We want to help you do your good work here.


Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph
LAPD Central Division.

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