Operation Healthy Streets so far…

Video by General Jeff for the Skid Row Photography Club of Operation Healthy Streets

Loud, thunderous applause for the City of Los Angeles and to the Mayor for directing this much-needed collaboration of Municipal and private entities to clean the streets of Skid Row! As I have been documenting for about a year now, the level of filth and trash on the neighborhood streets around these parts was completely unacceptable. Operation Healthy Streets is a gigantic step in the right direction. It is an acknowledgement that the people who live and work here matter. For this I am grateful.

photo by General Jeff for the Skid Row Photography Club

Today Towne Avenue was cleaned. On my way home from work late this evening, I drove by to see how things looked. The encampment was back- which is allowed by law by way of the Jones v. City of Los Angeles decision- a slightly different opinion offered here (disclaimer: I know nothing about the law), but what was heartbreaking was the amount of trash that had already accumulated on the sidewalks and in the gutters.

photo by General Jeff for the Skid Row Photography Club

The reason for the trash pile up so quickly after such a thorough cleaning is the lack of trash receptacles, pure and simple. Where encampments are located, an adequate number of trash cans are needed as are restroom facilities. If these important components are not made available to the people living on the streets- the progress that is being made will quickly deteriorate. I have personally witnessed streets that I had just spent hours cleaning with fellow volunteers from Operation Face-Lift/Skid Row that we left swept clean as a whistle, the very next night be covered in piles of trash. There are just too many people here without proper facilities to deal with their refuse or restrooms available to them so they don’t use the public space to relieve themselves. Getting past the issue of whether or not you think people should be living on the sidewalks at all, lets all agree that they are here now- over one thousand of them (at last count by the LAPD) and if this new effort by the City is to take hold, all the reccomendations from the LA County Health Department need to be followed. This could already be in the works, but I want to stress that many local Community residents fully support the recommendations too, and are anxious to see evidence of their implementation. Specifically,  the additions of public restrooms on San Julian, San Pedro and Crocker Streets (these are the streets the report recommends) as well as providing an “adequate number of trash bins” (no word yet on what this number is) “with frequent as needed disposal to prevent accumulation of trash and debris on the sidewalk“.

When determining what an “adequate” number of trash bins is for the amount of people on the streets in Skid Row, it would be helpful to compare similar heavily populated areas that serve food.

(Excerpted from a New York Times article titled, “In Customer Service Consulting, Disney’s Small World Is Growing” April 21th, 2012 by Brooks Barnes)

…But vast numbers of consumers love it, and the company is routinely showcased in business books, like “The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company,” for its hospitality and efficiency. For instance, the company has spent so much time studying its park customers — more than 120 million of them globally last year — that it places trash cans every 27 paces, the average distance a visitor carries a candy wrapper before discarding it.

So it would seem that Disney has studied this issue of trash bins to people equation meticulously. Maybe bringing them on as a consultant could be helpful. I mention this because it seems crystal clear that for any meaningful headway to be made in Skid Row-  corporate America is going to have to get behind Operation Healthy Streets for it to succeed the way many here would like it to. As it is now, almost all of the buildings that house people here are non-profit entities, making trash mitigation, street sanitation and the like difficult because it is not part of their missions (which I imagine is specifically to house formerly homeless individuals). This makes for a challenging, yet City-designed neighborhood dynamic. In time, with more mixed income residents moving into Skid Row, sanitation services will most likely take care of themselves, but for the time being, Public-private partnerships seem like the only logical path towards relief from the immediate and acute health dangers posed as more and more people moving into downtown shrink Skid Row, making it a denser and more unhealthy living environment. Something has got to give, and I think that something has got to be outside of our City government, yet working closely along side it.

photo by General Jeff for the Skid Row Photography Club

***Coming Soon***

What to do about the large number of hypodermic needles found by Operation Healthy Streets Municipal workers?

(Excerpted from a Blogdowntown article titled, “Massive Skid Row cleanup begins in response to health code violations” June 19th, 2012 by  EMILY CHU and HAYLEY FOX)

“Short term, we have to clean up the street and make it safe,” said Pat Butler, the assistant chief of LAFD and the spokesman for Operation Healthy Streets. “I saw 50 hypodermic needles…”

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2 Responses to Operation Healthy Streets so far…

  1. NC says:

    Great post! You mentioned public-private partnerships to increase the success of public health concerns in Skid Row: what would a partnership like this look like (who is doing these) and how would the private company benefit (what is the incentive for the private company to help fund these efforts)?

  2. Katherine says:

    NC, corporate America is already giving heavily in Skid Row. If you look at who is donating to the large non-profit entities here now, corporate America is represented. This would just be a new and different focus for their funding. As to the other parts of your question, corporate America has got to be keen to establish a stronger foothold in downtown Los Angeles- but, without addressing Skid Row’s streets and unhealthy conditions, I am not sure that we, as a growing Urban center full of potential customers, can flourish and present a safe enough landscape for which they can invest into. I must admit, I do not know who is doing anything like this now. The incentive would be potential branding of any clean-up efforts. Your questions are good ones! Thank you for your feedback.

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