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After Year of Stability, Numbers Up in Skid Row

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, September 04, 2008, at 09:44AM
tired eyes Ed Fuentes

Tired eyes listen to offers of shelter during Wednesday evening's Skid Row Neighborhood Walk.

Last night's Skid Row Neighborhood Watch Walk was fairly light compared to Septembers before. Maybe without an anniversary milestone, the Safer Cities Initiative off activists' agendas (for now) and a DASH service ready to go through the heart of Central City East, an urgency is missing.

It could also be fatigue.

Yet however you picture, accept, deny or live with Skid Row, the number of homeless individuals living on the streets has made its first significant increase in a year. According to LAPD Captain Jodi Wakefield, the August 2008 count reached 923 before September's count dipped to 889; both a rise compared to the August 2007 count, which showed 750 men and women living on the streets of Central City East.

Even the Midnight Mission has seen a jump from those seeking refuge for the night by sleeping in the front patio. The average has been 150 for the last year, but recently reached as many as 250.

Explanation for the trend is a highly inexact science. One might point to ongoing economic woes, and speculate that some have been unable to hold onto their place to live. Or perhaps that same downturn has reduced contributions to non-profits, leading to a limit on services elsewhere.

While she can't answer the question of why, Wakefield doesn't believe that this increase is simply due to summer. "It’s not just the weather," said Wakefield as she helped lead the walk. "The weather is always good here. It's something more than that."

LAPD's homeless counts record individuals sleeping on the streets in Central Division, which includes most of Downtown. The high count came in September of 2006, when 1,800 people were recorded. With the institution of the Safer Cities Initiative later that year, those numbers steadily declined.

From November of 2006 until June of 2007, local mapping firm Cartifact and then-employee Eric Richardson (Publisher of blogdowntown) partnered with LAPD to produce a map of the count data.

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