For many years street trash in Skid Row has been part frustration, part confusion, part scandal, part embarrassment. But it has also been part positive challenge and part community mobilization.
The month of April produced an avalanche of activity and it now appears a collaborative foundation for Skid Row street trash has been laid to build upon for many, many years to come.
This avalanche included three meetings of the CD-14 Skid Row Working Group with an outreach day along San Julian Street and pilot program details provided on-site by the Sanitation Department; two meetings of the DLANC Bathrooms and Trash Cans Ad Hoc Committee; release of “The Dirty Divide” position paper by LA CAN; and Operation Facelift Skid Row Awards Banquet in City Hall with special thanks to Councilmember Jan Perry and her staff for several years of support.
Back in 2007, Manuel Compito (OG Man) began a Skid Row initiative to clean the streets with participants known as the Skid Row Brigade. This initiative to help clean the streets was part of a larger picture to empower and challenge the men of Skid Row to step up and take pride in their community.
In 2008, OG, with the Skid Row Brigade and the Homeless Coalition, and General Jeff Page, founder of Issues and Solutions and the representative for Skid Row Residents on DLANC, launched Operation Facelift Skid Row for the goal of cleaner and safer streets. Operation Facelift Skid Row became the leader of the Skid Row “positive movement” focusing on the positive things happening in Skid Row and communicating those to others in a positive manner.
In early 2012, the problem of street trash became much more severe with city services paralyzed and in this emergency situation Operation Facelift Skid Row was re-launched with a goal to mobilize volunteers from both inside and outside Skid Row to help clean the streets. As a street level community initiative, sensitive and respectful relationships with those living on the streets were emphasized in light of the Skid Row phrase, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.
Operation Facelift Skid Row discovered a major reason for the street trash were people, usually faith-based groups, driving in to feed the homeless on the street and drop off clothing, but often they did not clean up after themselves. At a 2012 community forum, General Jeff coined the phrase “Feed N Clean” to encourage those publicly feeding to add cleaning to their community service.
In the 2012 Best of Downtown issue, the Downtown News gave Operation Facelift Skid Row the Do-It-Yourself volunteer community service award.
In February 2013, Sara Hernandez, the Downtown Area Director for Council District 14, with assistance from Martin Schlageter (Policy Director CD-14) and Miguel Vargas (Field Deputy CD-14), initiated the CD-14 Skid Row Working Group by primarily reaching out to OG Man and his Skid Row Brigade. OG stands for Original Gangster.
Working with the Sanitation Department, a new strategy for street trash began to emerge along with a letter to be signed by Councilmember Jose Huizar formalizing the Feed N Clean concept of accepting community responsibility. Central to the strategy was a commitment from Sanitation of twenty trash cans and pick up at least once a week.
In this same time frame, the DLANC Bathrooms and Trash Cans Ad Hoc Committee developed. On the same day the committee first met, LA CAN publicly released their position paper, “The Dirty Divide In Downtown Los Angeles: a call for public health equity”, which views the issue of Skid Row/DTLA trash cans and bathrooms through the lens of human rights and concludes with several policy recommendations.
An outreach to the organizations along San Julian took place April 17th and on Monday, April 22nd, Earth Day, the Superintendant of the Sanitation Department for seven of the fifteen Council Districts drove Sara Hernandez and Miguel Vargas on a thirty minute tour of Skid Row from the perspective of Sanitation workers.
From that experience emerged a pilot program of six ALB (automated pick up) trash cans and six white wire baskets with manual pick up along San Julian for two weeks of daily pick up with reports coming in from the Sanitation workers to help determine which type of trash can is most effective to meet the needs of Skid Row. The twelve trash cans were placed along San Julian the following day, Tuesday.
What just transpired doesn’t address all the issues or provide all the solutions to a comprehensive Skid Row trash policy, but Skid Row has been waiting a long time for something solid and long term to be established. Now with this foundational street trash policy and practical implementation coming into place, this collaborative community effort can begin to focus on a much easier issue: toilets.
By Tom Grode
Blogger’s note: The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Trees on San Pedro Street Project editrix, Ms. McNenny. This is a Community improvement blog and not faith-based.