Windmills of Poo


We give them free phones.

We give them EBT cards.

We give them free health care.  Also the ability to use 911 as a hotel and car service.

We allow them unlimited shoplifting privileges up to $950 per incident. We provide them with pro bono legal representation.

We exempt them from civic laws relating to public safety and sanitation.

We allow them to pitch tents ten feet from people paying $3000 a month in mortgage, and we wonder why they stay.  Cyclically, we tell them to vacate a given location, but never to leave the City. Nor to assume self-responsibility and sobriety. There’s no grant money to be prized from that. What will Do-Gooders do for work?   So, the Favela rotates within neighborhoods like a seasonal crop. From the freeway to the Narrows, to the Wash, to Raymer Street and back again.

It is impermissible in the Los Angeles Times, or City Hall, to speak of human nature. Or moral hazard.  We subsidize the Favela endlessly, while nimbly managing to escape the inclusivity we preach. The people who staff the Caring Organizations, courtesy of the Los Angeles taxpayer, are unusually allergic to living here.   They live in South Pasadena. They live in Sierra Madre. Or Redondo. Or Moorpark, or any of the other small, orderly cities of 100,000 people that surround LA,  cities directly accountable to the voters and consequently intolerant of the Favela metastasizing within their borders.

Los Angeles has spent over a billion dollars in the last 30 years directly “combating” homelessness.   In that time, it has spread from Skid Row to Van Nuys and staked a claim to every weedy mite of ground in between.

Mayor Photo-Op intends to spend $1.87 billion (that’s billion with a B) in the next decade to cut the homeless population by …half.

The beauty of ten years from now accounting is Garcetti will no longer be Mayor when the ledgers are squared.  He intends to be President. The City Council will be termed out as well. The money will be burned in great hay bales in Grand Park. They will throw it on the pyre with pitchforks and dance around it, singing, like the Whos in Whoville. When the smoke clears, half of the 34,189 people on the street at last count will be re-housed.   The Mexican border will remain wide open if the City has anything to say about it, but the tents will diminish be replaced by pod villages in parking lots. Or something which squares personal self-destruction with virtue-signaling photo ops rounded out by civic baby talk. Public policy in LA is nothing if not a cargo cult.

In this most optimistic scenario we pay $109,548 for every Larry we remove from the streets, in addition to all the other freebies we already provide.  That’s a whole lot of kitchen remodeling in South Pas.

Alternately, we could purchase a house somewhere in the U.S. for every blue tarp refugee, then hand them the deed. Like this one, in Marlin, TX. Two bedrooms, $24,000.  Congratulations, you are now homeowners.  Here’s your bus ticket. Your sins have been cleansed from the books.

Too rural?  How about this 4-bedroom storybook traditional in Detroit? I found it in five seconds on Zillow. $37,000.  That’s less than ten grand a head for permanent housing.

One tenth what Garcetti proposes to spend on Guiding Principles™ and Liasons to Committees of Concerned Frowning, with some pods and motel rooms thrown in.

But but but but but….that’s crazy talk, Mr. UpintheValley.   You want to argue moral hazard? Anybody could just show up in LA, pitch a tent in the street and be given the deed to a house.  Where does it end?

To which I reply, what are we doing now?  We are about to spend ten times this amount to not house people, to provide them most of the necessities of life and some of the pleasures, plus a caseworker and a lawyer, but put no lasting roof over their head. We demand nothing in exchange and they return the favor.

Behind this Ikea shelf is a “bedroom” in North Hollywood.   The man who lives here is a Temple graduate. He has two day jobs. He also takes on side gigs in the Industry when opportunities arise.

In June his life upscales for the better, when a roommate shuffle will create a vacancy in one of the bedrooms.   He gets to move out from behind the TV set. This is the guy who pays the $1.87 billion to keep the Mayor in photo-ops and the salaries paid for Homeless Advocacy, Inc.

This is how we live in LA now.

Eviction

Larry got booted from his mattress fort on the Pacoima Wash yesterday. Official personages from the City gave him 24 hours to vacate. I asked him where he was headed next. He said he didn’t know. He didn’t want to go to Raymer Street with the rest of them. He preferred his isolation. He asked me if I worked at Kaiser hospital.  I told him no. He was certain he recognized me from there.

“You look like a doctor I used to know.”

The white favela, I couldn’t help noticing, is becoming less white.

What is the Christian thing to do with someone who walks around with a crack pipe in his hand in the middle of the afternoon but is otherwise harmless and agreeable?

Rebecca Has No Tent

Life on twenty pounds of copper a week
Life on twenty pounds of copper a week

After a summer without a sighting, I found Rebecca tonight in the scrubland behind the 405.

A woman was sitting on the Metrolink tracks, lacing up her shoes, bellowing incoherently into the ailanthus: Whag-gle!  Whah-gul!  It took me a moment to realize she was trying to say “White Eagle”. I walked through the bushes in the direction the woman was shouting and found Rebecca dragging her cart across the dirt.

She’d lost a little weight since May.  It hadn’t been going well.    The Valley was pretty well picked for scrap. The battalions of the white favela had seen to that. A weeks work of scrapping net a little over 20 pounds of copper coil. A steady drop in metal prices meant the Raymer street yard was paying $1.60/lb.  Her old man was drinking it away in front of the 7-11 at Roscoe and Sepulveda.  They had been living on Orion for awhile but had recently gotten bounced by local merchants. Before that, The Narrows. Before that, Saticoy.

Someone had stolen her tent while she was at the recyclers.  She had no money for a new one. She was on the move.

For the time being, they were sleeping behind Jack in the Box until they figured it out it.

Winnebago Art Gallery

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A smiling purse, a unicorn, a lighthouse in a storm…if you’re living out of your RV, what does it mean?  Out of all the detritus of middle-class life one might collect during one’s perambulations through the Valley, why these three items? Why are they facing the outside of the house? Is it a political statement? Are they semaphores for the state of mind of those living within?  Are they aspirational?

Perhaps they are offerings left in exchange for generosity to those living in tarp houses nearby.

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Like this one.

They’re everywhere. This is the new normal in Van Nuys. This is what Prop. 47 has wrought.

To the scrapyard

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Driving home from Home Depot I saw this guy pushing his cart out of a drainage swale on Raymer Street, huffing with effort. I missed the shot, he’s mostly out of frame, but we can just pretend it was an artistic choice.

These guys are everywhere now.  Addiction is a full time job.

The Scrapyard

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No journey along Raymer Street would be complete without a stop at the salvage works, easily the busiest establishment in the neighborhood. Cars, trucks and shopping carts line up all day, loaded with tradable detritus of this modern world, which gets scooped into cargo containers and hauled to Long Beach, and thence to China.   Or, back to China, to be accurate.

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For some reason, they don’t take TV’s, which pile up across the street as the day goes on.  As well as shopping carts:

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Carcass

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Along Raymer Street, the fossilized remnants of a once prodigious ivy patch….now entombed in chain link.  One wonders why this was cut.  No one inside the fence is trying to see out. No one passing by on the street has any reason to look in.  The fresh shoots of new ivy climbing out of a weephole in the asphalt suggest it was unlikely anyone was watering this to begin with. (Ivy is surprisingly hardy and resilient in the arid LA heat) What practical concern or fit of pique put a chainsaw to the roots of this mastodon, this brontosaurus of the scrapyard?