Monday, April 11, 2005

architecture and the homeless

most of the mainstream media coverage of downtown's redevelopment barely mentions skid row, so its good to see the latimes devote at least one article to the subject. LA's skid row is unlike any other I've seen in a "developed" country - worse than ny, worse than london. and with so much academic theory about downtown's transformation into a "virtual downtown" we need to be reminded of the existence and work of social services program that focus on that area. thus, the latimes coverage of the new $22 million homeless center on 6th and san pedro reminds us that downtown doesn't only consist of new concert halls, luxury apartments and joachim splichal restaurants, but also requires coexistence and concsessions.

yet, herein lies the irony - to fund the new Midnight Mission, the old mission in the toy district was sold to developers. and what will that space become? retail and - you guessed it - upscale luxury apartments. I know by now its banal to point out the irony of former homeless shelters becoming luxury condos (see ny's bowery as a case in point). Yet that, combined with the statements like this:
Adamson and other social service providers acknowledge they face challenges serving the poor because property in Los Angeles is at a premium. ... The facility may be one of the last additions to skid row's array of social programs. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the city and county agency that controls government funds for the homeless, gives new social service projects downtown its lowest priority.
worry me greatly. the new mission was funded entirely through private donations and the sale of the old mission. (another somewhat ironic point: the homeless, my sister in med school, and I have all passed through institutions named for the annenbergs). it seems inconceivable to me that an area that supports about 8,000 homeless, including a growing number of children, would rate so low on a government agency's list of priorities. an agency formed with the express purpose "to support, create and sustain solutions to homelessness in Los Angeles County by providing leadership, advocacy, planning, and management of program funding."

Am I missing something here? why ignore downtown? has private largesse had the adverse effect of government abdicating its responsibility to this area? again, I'm still catching up on los angeles politics (and I doubt I will ever fully understand it) but someone will have to explain this to me.


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