Saturday, April 21, 2012

Just in from Reseda: everybody has a "them".

This double handful of class fear ran March 25 in the Los Angeles Daily News, but it comes to you via yesterday's "Most Visited" links on the Google News front page, so you know it's gotta be a meme.

It's a story quoting long-term residents of a seniors' complex in the Reseda part of Los Angeles about scary new neighbors put there by a city program. I'm sure these folks are right that some of these new neighbors are in fact up to scary stuff. Because the paper says, "the new tenants have been placed in Reflections on Wyandotte as part of an expansion of an innovative 2007 effort to get the county's 50 most vulnerable homeless off the streets of Skid Row."

So, yes, a certain percentage of people who have survived Los Angles Skid Row but been dragged into it deeply enough to almost not survive it are going to be, yes, not easy neighbors on entering a "Housing First" program like this one. Starting with the PTSD and moving on to the lifestyle and the visitors, yes. Sometimes maybe not intentionally, but out of vulnerability to being moved in on.

But it is nevertheless not OK to refer to the new tenants from the Skid Row program as a monolithic group, as the story does at its beginning, and it is not OK to refer to them as "the homeless," as in: "Nor were longtime tenants -- many single, elderly and female -- given a chance to relocate before the homeless moved in."

People who lack housing are a big category containing all kinds of people, most of them not visibly poor nor habitual voluntary lawbreakers nor in any way bad neighbors.

On the other hand the fifty most troubled people on Los Angeles Skid Row are a very small category. A very small category that, even then, contains all kinds of people.

Halfway through the news story, after we've met several concerned ladies who are organizing to do something about their dread new neighbors, we at last meet one of the dread new neighbors.

In the person of Doris, who has been through a terrible time and is now in recovery, sober eight months. "At 54, Doris almost meets the age expectations of her new fellow tenants. She said she was incredibly happy to have left transitional housing, where she had been living with three other women she called "low-life drug addicts.""

Everybody, including Doris, has a "them."

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