To Feed or Not to Feed . . .
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — LAPD Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph has been working Skid Row for a number of years. He uses the LAPD blog to bring up topics, and now adds something many might not have considered an issue. He wants the volunteer groups, mostly from churches, who come from outside Downtown to distribute clothing and food for Skid Row residents to know that they may be leaving long term problems behind. Joseph writes in To Feed or Not to Feed, An Important Question:
"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.
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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.
Joesph goes on to say that no one has really been cited if the intention is good, and he understands that making a difference is the motive. As one church-goer I know of who comes from 2 hours away tells me, they enjoy "seeing the face of someone being helped."
It's just that there are better ways to do it. Officer Joseph leaves his contact info at the end of his post for anyone who wants to ask how.