Friday, January 4, 2008
2008--WILL THE ORGANIZATIONS CHANGE IN SKID ROW
This is Tony's. Tony's is the closest thing Skid Row has as a neighborhood eating place and gathering spot. You are likely to run into anyone at anytime at Tony's. It is on the corner of 7th/Wall St. They have good food and the prices are very reasonable.
On television, people see, everyday on the news, restaurants and other retail establishments that deliver food. We see how the rats take over the establishments after closing hours. We also see how these establishments have average or slightly above average ratings from the health authorities. What amazes me about Tony's is that, in a neighborhood that is over run by rats, the restaurant has a rating of "A".
I find that to be an outstanding achievement and standard by which other restaurants can live up to.
I had a conversation with someone last night about Skid Row. We talked about the drugs that we see. He mentioned to me that he has seen quite a bit of people talking to themselves on the streets the last couple of days. The big question that a police officer had and he shared it with me was this? When people talk to themselves is it a function of mental illness alone, or does the drug addiction drive the mental illness? That is a question that police officers ask themselves each time they approach someone on Skid Row in the "talking to themselves" scenario.
I do not know what percentages fit which category in Skid Row. I know this. That I saw one lady talking to herself at the end of last year. She was having a casual conversation with herself each day as I walked past her. When the first came, the intensity of her self conversation increased. On Skid Row, certain things happen at the beginning of each month. There is an exodus from shelters and a rotation to other shelters. This occurs because people get their checks. When they get their checks, they purchase narcotics. It starts at the beginning of the month and continues until the tenth of each month when the government transfer payments end for that month.
Each day I saw that lady. Each day her conversation progressed to the point where she was having arguments with herself. She was shouting and screaming. I have seen other people fit that pattern. It is safe to say that their mental illness progressed as their consumption progressed. It is also interesting to note that these people were all within the vicinity of 5th and San Julian. Moreover, I have never seen them at any other time.
The fact is they suddenly appear because they go to the 5th and San Julian area to purchase cocaine. There are a few established retail outlets for crack between Wall St and San Julian St. The reason the lady is talking to herself in such a visible manner is because she could not wait to consume the drug. She was not concerned about the police. She just had to make sure she was out of the range of association and connection with the drug dealer. The drug dealer would have her beaten if she loitered too close to him. It would make him "hot". So she purchases the drug, gets out of "danger range" and consumes her product. Two other factors are working here. She becomes "stuck". That is a common term within the drug world. It means that once the person takes that first hit, the person is in a world of their own and can not move. It can be for many reasons. One of them is paranoia. Not everyone gets "stuck" but when they behave in this manner, nothing moves them, not even the threat of going to jail or getting beaten. The other factor is the woman does not want to be too far away from the dealer after her drug runs out. She does not want to traverse an "open field", that being the Skid Row neighborhood where she could be robbed because now people know that she has money. They want to try to get some of it before the drug dealer gets it all.
Rarely does a street person try to rob a drug dealer. It is too easy for a dealer to find the person in the neighborhood. A dealer will pay other smokers to find the person. The dealers are robbed by those that come in Skid Row with cars and zero in on the dealers. They figure out who the dealers are, rob them at gunpoint and then make a quick get away. They feel they can escape the detective work of the dealers to exact revenge because they assume they have no ties to the area.
That is the drug lesson for today.
Joe asks, in the comment section of CentralCityewhose fault is it for the purchasing of drugs, the buyer or the seller.
Seeing as how I have been talking about 5th street, I will limit my comments to that area. I was just talking with James. I ran into James when I walked out of the Marshall House today. I gave him my maroon skull hat. He asked me for one so I gave him that one. It is the hat I bought when I was transitioning from buying drugs to buying goods. It was symbolic of change in my life. Yes, I bought the hat when I was doing triathlon training. It was a sentimental hat for me.
james lived in the Transitional House. He was the enforcer there as James is quite tall and big. He was the first to tell me to keep writing. At the time, I was not writing on a blog. I was writing on paper that I could find around the facility.
Many times the paper was the the back of flyers that were sitting around. I just gathered them up, stapled them and wrote. I marked each writing session with a date and time. The different times would signal a different mood and train of thought.
I must have hundreds of stapled stacks in a luggage bag in my room with all of the different thoughts and observations about myself and the environment in which I was operating.
I gave my hat to James and he walked to the bus stop in front of the Los Angeles Mission. He had moved from shelter to shelter. He is thrilled about my blog. OF course I only have a handful of readers but to him that is ok. "You are in the game, Walter. You are progressing. You only had sheets of paper. Now you have a computer audience. You are in the game. Keep doing what you are doing." Those famous words, I thought, as I walked across the street with him, "Keep doing what you are doing.". Those words are said to me at least 3 times a week. They must know something because I am something place with my writing. Where, I do not know. But I have learned alot with it, about myself and other things and so I might as well continue to do what I have been doing.
Because he has not been here for a while, I asked him if he has noticed a change
on Skid Row. He stood at the bus stop and slowly turned around and looked inside the grounds of the LA Mission. "Walter, it is the same "Horror Show" as it has always been. this place here, needs to get its act together. All of these people int the mission couryard have been puffing cocaine all night. Why do you think you have these clusters of people out here. This is where they buy their dope. They must know it. The low level stafff must be making money from the drugs because there is no way that the high ups would tolerate this."
To answere Joe's question, on Skid Row between Wall and San Pedro you have two things going on. The dealers are responsible for selling the poison. The drug users are responsible for their own behavior of buying it. However, somewhere along the line someone must be held accountable for the drugs being sold on the grounds of the mission. Nobody wants to admit that it is going on. It is big business on the mission grounds. I am sure that Herb Smith would stop it if he were made aware of the activity and the amount of drug activity that takes place on his property. There is just as much activity taking place on the grounds of the mission as their are on the street corners. It is a sanctuary for the dealers and the drug users and will continue to be so until they are removed.
I was talking to another Skid Row resident this morning. He has noticed a proliferation of young drug dealers that come down here to sell drugs because their belief that there is big and quick money to be made. He has seen a few of them get arrested and laugh about it. To them they are earning "stripes" in their "hood" by being arrested. Being sheltered on the grounds of a sanctuary is one of many ingredients that perpetuate that sick thinking of earning "stripes" by selling drugs.
Yesterday, I wrote how I believe the media should change the way they cover skid row and expand the amount of time that they cover Skid Row other than the holiday season. Bring more attention to the area and things will change. Commit to the area and the "secrets" of the area will reveal themselves to the media. Long time veterans of Skid Row all say,"There are many DIRTY secrets about Skid Row."
They are not talking about the secrets of the drug activity and the various vice categories that come with it. They are talking about the secrets that are kept tight within the sanctuary of the grounds of the non profit organizations and the missions. They, the secrets, just exist and to release them would danger the income stream of the organizations and the people that run them, according to the long time veterans of the area.
I ask the organizations of Skid Row as I asked the media to make a change. Do something bold to change the perennial pattern and cycle that exists down here. Open up your eyes and eradicate from your property the virus of malignant behavior that retards the progress of your efforts to help the people of this community. They
need help. They do not need to navigate their way through drug dealers and drug users who are actively engagin in destructive behavior in an environment in which they are suppose to be receiving assistance to escape from a lifestyle that leads to death or prison. AT the least, it causes harm and pain to mmembers of their families. I know. I learned, after I stopped, how much I brought emotional pain to the people that loved me.
Here is a simple fact. Everyone on Skid Row knows where the drugs are being sold and consumed in the neighborhood. If the non profit organizations and the missions worked to eradicate drugs from their respective properties, then that would change alot of the dynamics of Skid Row. It would give a lot of people a fighting chance to change their lives. As it is now, each month, checks arrive and money is spent on drugs. People get kicked out of shelters for not showing up before curfew. They are known to be using but they are not tested. Why? It is the common belief of the Skid Row community that people are not being tested for two reasons; the first is that the organizations do not want to spend the money to test individuals. They second is that, if they were to test individuals, there would be no one left in the shelters. What does that tell you? It confirms what COUNSELORS AND STAFF people say about Skid Row. They say that these organizations are de facto enablers of drug usage because they offer sanctuary to those they know break their rules whether it is using or selling.
I challenge the missions to clean house and clear their name among those in Skid Row who accuse them of acting to further their own interests and not acting to lend much need assistance to the people who are depending on them to do so. If the media and the various organizations work together, in NEW AND CREATIVE WAYS, their is so much that can be done.
It is time for me to close this blog. I need time to reflect. I thought I would be broadcasting right now but I believe my partner is a little under the weather.
I must figure out a way to attack the labor market. One thing about living down here is you learn to count on yourself. "Walter, if we can not count on the organizations to keep the drugs out of our living environments, where they have total control, then how can we count on them to help us in any other way?"
Good Afternoon world. I love you.