Friday, February 24, 2006

Vivir en Hollywood...

This morning KPCC's Airtalk with Larry Mantle* had a segment broadcasting live from the corner of Hollywood and Gower, 1.44 miles from my front door.

Residents, business owners, community activists and homeless youth spoke out for and against a proposed 60 bed facility that would provide transitional housing and services for the enormous homeless youth population in Hollywood. Three guesses which side of the debate the homeowners and the youth were on-- and you're first two don't count.

There are more homeless youth on the streets of Hollywood than there were residents left in New Orleans last fall. This issue has been studied, argued, planned for, and underserved for more than forty years!

In the 1920s, the good people of Hollywood went so far as to take out ads in newspapers back east, urging people not to try their luck at seeking fame and fortune here, as the community was already overwhelmed by hopefuls who were destitute. Police routinely turned back people trying to enter California during the Great Depression.

Next year will be the 40th anniversary of the "Summer of Love," which fueled an even greater migration of youth to California. Many of today's young people are refugees of unspeakable abusive horrors which negates any humane possibility of them returning to their families of origin.

California has known nothing but waves of newcomers since --well, since the Spanish began annihilating the indigenous population before America was even a country.

The representative for the homeowner's association who spoke on the program appeared to be out of touch with scale of the problem taking place below her home in the hills. In voicing her concerns that providing services to those most critically at need, she suggested that the area would become a magnet for even more homeless. Hello?!? Not only does the need exist now but it has existed at crisis levels since long before the gentrified sections of Hollywood began commanding rents on the order of the toniest quarters of Paris, New York, or Rio. The only solution to make the problem go away for those in denial would be along the order of methods tried in Serbia or Rwanda.

The issue is not going to wait until we have another dot-com styled bubble in our economy; it's here, now. These kids are dying on the streets and we as a society are killing them.

Kudos to Larry Mantle for putting the issue right in front of us so we can't ignore it.

* Click on the link at left to KPCC and Airtalk to hear the program.

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