A Skid Row activist honored on Monday by the city of Los Angeles ripped up his award in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s face, claiming the longtime politician has contributed to the neighborhood’s current problems, which include homeless people openly defecating on the streets and sidewalks.
“This award is just like the mayor and his cronies: it’s worthless,” said General Dogon, an organizer with the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), as he tore a commendation from Garcetti in half.
General Dogon, whose birth name is Steve Richardson, advocates on behalf of L.A.’s Skid Row neighborhood, notorious for its high concentration of homeless people.
“For the last 16 years, you’ve been in leadership of City Council,” he continued to chide Garcetti, who served as a councilmember from 2001 until taking office as Mayor in 2013. “You have directly criminalized Skid Row, and I cannot accept this.”
The comments were made at the opening of the Skid Row Community ReFresh Spot, a new city-funded hygiene center that will initially provide eight more public toilets and six additional showers for the neighborhood’s estimated 1,777 unsheltered homeless residents.
“It’s a start, but we need 300 more toilets,” Dogon told Garcetti.
The center — billed by the Mayor’s Office as a “one-year pilot model” — will have a limited schedule through December before expanding its hours, washrooms, and services, soon to include laundry facilities.
“Access to safe, clean toilets and a hot shower are a basic human right,” said L.A. councilmember Jose Huizar, who represents the Skid Row neighborhood. “Our aim is to give the residents of Skid Row a sense of hope and dignity while we also take action to protect them from the spread of Hepatitis A.”
Recent outbreaks of Hepatitis A have sickened more than 600 people living in homeless encampments throughout California. In San Diego County, at least 20 vagrants have died after contracting the disease. As of last week, there have been 15 cases reported among homeless people in Los Angeles County, with no deaths. Hepatitis A is spread by ingesting or touching anything contaminated with infected feces.
Louise Mbella — known as “Frenchy” in the Skid Row community — is an advocate who worked with city leaders to organize the new hygiene center. She recently described the condition of the neighborhood in LACAN’s Community Connection newsletter, writing “pedestrians must walk on top of feces, urine, and other body fluids and waste.”
She continued: “Open defecation brings the challenge of not only dignity and equity but also safety on various levels, such as homeless women who must wait until dark to hide so they can relieve themselves.”
Last week, elected officials passed a motion to install temporary portable toilets and handwashing stations in four of the more significant homeless encampments within unincorporated areas of L.A. County, which includes at least 222 such sites.
Still, the implementation of new hygiene facilities is far outpaced by the region’s growing homeless population.
As Fox News recently reported:
Los Angeles County, meanwhile, has 42,828 homeless living on the streets, which swells to more than 50,000 during the day when many leave overnight shelters. Most are within the city of Los Angeles, which has a total of 2,800 toilets and 800 urinals located in parks that are open during daylight hours.
In the past, county and city officials have not made a push for increasing the number of toilets; rather, preferring to use their budgeted resources for housing, job training, medical services and cash benefits.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.