Los Angeles recently launched an initiative intended to improve public health, empower the destitute, and advance sanitation efforts in the epicenter of the city’s homeless crisis: Skid Row.
On Monday, Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the formation of the Skid Row Clean Team — a new street cleaning program targeting the roughly 54-block area best known for rat-infested piles of garbage, a typhus outbreak, and sidewalks lined with tent encampments. He said the new project currently employs “about two dozen” homeless and formerly homeless individuals to help pick up the trash in their neighborhood.
Garcetti maintained that the team members are all determined to make a better life for themselves, adding, the endeavor is “just as much about cleaning the streets as it is about lifting up the people who live on them.”
The workers were hired and primarily trained by the contracting organization Urban Alchemy and are not city employees. According to KFI Radio, they are paid “$15 an hour or more.” The minimum wage in L.A. increased to $14.25 an hour last month for businesses with more than 25 employees.
Mayor Garcetti lauded their training in “hazardous waste management” and “litter abatement,” while also highlighting acquired skills such as “conflict de-escalation” and “community engagement.”
“When I first started the job, the homeless wouldn’t let us pick up the trash,” said a woman named Monique, who has been part of the clean team for about three weeks. “But I communicated with them…started picking up around them, and they began to trust us.”
A spokesperson for Garcetti told The Daily Wire that the Mayor’s Office would evaluate the impact of the current program and consider expansion to meet the needs of the community.
L.A. directed $20 million in state funds to improve the Skid Row area last year. A recent count estimates 4,757 homeless individuals currently reside there. This fall, the city plans to upgrade the neighborhood’s hygiene infrastructure, increasing the size of a personal care center that offers showers, toilets, and laundry machines for residents. The facility currently provides more than 500 services per day.
“Every un-housed Angeleno deserves the help that they need to get off the streets,” Garcetti said.
A recent NBC4 investigation documented homeless people, often in the Skid Row area, “hijacking” fire hydrants throughout L.A. The probe found that vagrants “are illegally using fire hydrants as a source of water to bathe, shave, even fill water balloons, leaving the hydrants damaged and often useless to firefighters during the critical fire season.”
A flea-borne typhus outbreak on Skid Row last year led to a record 124 confirmed cases in L.A. County. According to the Mayor’s Office, the disease has returned to baseline levels within city limits where only one case has been reported in 2019.
CBS2 News reports that government officials estimate 17 more people become homeless every day in L.A. County.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.