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Skid Row Walk Participants Reflect on Event's 4th Anniversary

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, July 02, 2009, at 01:44PM
Ward of the Streets Ed Fuentes

The purpose of the walks are so others can experience the streets, yet see how there is community here, said Orlando Ward, Director of the Midnight Mission.

There was a collective reflection at the Skid Row neighborhood walk Wednesday night, as the event marked its 4th anniversary.

For those who joined the regulars for the first time, the sight of people sleeping on the street, empty food containers left behind and tired faces seeking refuge from the day's heat may have left them thinking the streets are in sordid state of neglect.

Those who have been a part of the monthly walk before looked back on how much conditions have improved over the last four years.

That included those who to revisit the neighborhood. "I came by to see some old friends," said Commander Andy Smith, the former Central Division Captain now stationed at Newton.

Smith wasn’t only speaking of the walkers, but locals like the "man named George who hangs out near the station."

Later, as the walk paused on Gladys Street, Smith told the group about the encampments that filled the street. "We had a murder over there," he said while pointing to a six-foot wall painted with a small mural. “That was the worst time on this street. People were selling drugs and throwing needles into the yard of the children's day care."

There are residents who don’t care for the group, like the woman in front of her SRO who shouted out "Welcome to Skid Row!" in a voice that carried sincere tolerance.

Most of the time, the group is ignored, even as those on the streets see the walkers huddled over a homeless person while Central City East's Estela Lopez or Councilwoman Jan Perry ask them if they wanted shelter for the night.

Some say yes. Most say no.

The group also took a slight detour, as Perry and LAPD officer Deon Joseph spotted a church group offering meals to the homeless. They are called feedings, and while the intent is honorable, it's considered an ineffective way to help.

"We have a community living room now, the James Wood Community Center, and groups can make an appointment to help people with meals," said Perry to the church leader. She also noted that the meals, delivered on the sidewalk, remove the incentive for those on the street to take even a small step to improve their situation.

The walk itself serves as community meeting that updates those interested in changes and how things can be improved. "There is still a long way to go," Smith noted.


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