Author: Joe Brizzolara / Feb 28, 2018
Protesters with the Los Angeles Catholic Workers and other homeless advocacy groups gathered outside of the office of Councilmember Jose Huizar Tuesday afternoon. Protesters say they were there to put pressure on the Council-member, whose district includes both Boyle Heights and Skid Row, to create more permanent housing for the homeless.
Signs outside of Huizar’s office read: “House Keys Not Hand-Cuffs”; “150 Vacant Buildings on Skid Row”; “⅕ People Arrested In LA are Unhoused”.
Los Angeles Voters passed measure HHH in 2016, an initiative that authorizes $1.2 Billion in bond money to fund homeless housing, with a two-thirds majority. Last December, the city began construction in East Hollywood on the first project funded with the money.
But protesters believe the money from HHH is not hitting the streets quick enough to deal with the growing problem of homelessness. “If you have a crisis, you can’t wait around like 7 years finding a solution. And I think there clearly is a problem” says Teresa, who works at the Los Angeles Catholic Workers’ soup kitchen in Skid Row.
According to a homeless count released last year by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Los Angeles County has 57,794 homeless individuals, up 23% from 2016.
The protest is meant to show solidarity with Kaleb Havens, a fellow Catholic Worker who is staging a hunger strike in Skid Row. He is currently chained to a fence near 5th and Gladys during the season of Lent, foregoing solid foods to demand the city use eminent domain to confiscate some 150 vacant properties in Skid Row and use them for housing homeless residents.
“Sometimes meetings and photo opportunities are just excuses for them to do nothing” says Matt Harper, one of the protest organizers, about city leaders. “The most important thing to do is put pressure on them.”
Along with allocating more permanent housing, protesters would like to see law enforcement abandon tactics they see as predatory. These include citing the homeless for minor offenses such as loitering and littering. These policies amount to a criminalization of poverty according to some homeless advocates.
Harper noted that this protest was not merely done in Boyle Heights because it is the location of Huizar’s district office.
“Boyle Heights has its own struggle around gentrification so we’re here try to call for greater affordable housing for all people and not just development that displaces people in this community.”
Protesters plan on coming back weekly until the end of Lent.