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[ Lift Every Voice and Vote ]BLACK LIVES MATTER TRAILER
Dr. Melina Abudullah (voiceover): It’s important to remember that when we say, “Mely Forever,” we’re summoning her into the struggle, and we’re saying that we will step forward righteously and demand justice in her name.
Protestors: No justice?! No peace!
Dr. Melina Abudullah: Los Angeles Law Enforcement kills more people than any other set of law enforcement units in the country.
Dr. Melina Abudullah (voiceover): We’re gonna have to use every single tool in our toolbox.
WHEEL OF 41.18 SKETCH
Host: You’re watching Wheel of 41.18! And welcome back, as always I’m the “hosteeth with the most teeth.” Theo, are you ready to play?
Theo: I’m so confused.
Host: Hahaha, sounds good! Now let’s spin the Wheel of 41.18!
Theo: What’s 41.18?
Host: It’s the specific L.A. municipal code that City Council members are trying to amend, so that unhoused people like you — YES YOU — would be arrested for sitting, sleeping, or lying down outside!
Theo: What? I wanna leave!
Host: Hahahaha, you can’t! Now let’s take a look at these amazing prizes! Behind curtain #1 is a police officer who will arrest you!
Audience member (clapping): Yay, that’s a good prize for him!
Host: If 41.18 passes, all police have to do is offer a vague promise of shelter, and if you decline it, they will put you in handcuffs!
Theo: But there aren’t enough shelters for the unhoused in L.A.
Cop: Yeah, man, that’s just a formality!
Theo: How do you even do that?
Cop: How bout I just give you this raincoat? That’s technically “shelter,” if you put it over yourself. And if you say no? You go to jail!
Host: Hahaha that’s Hollyweird, baby! And behind curtain #2 is, oh! It’s the police again. You’ll be arrested, that’s your other option!
Theo: What? That’s terrible.
Host: Call your city council members by November 24th to reject Prop 41.18. And tell them, HOUSEKEYS NOT HANDCUFFS!
[song] Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round, turn me around, turn me round
Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round
I’m gonna keep on a-walking, keep on a-talking, marching into freedom land
Ain’t gonna let no jailhouse turn me round, turn me around, turn me round
Ain’t gonna let no jailhouse turn me round
I’m gonna keep on a-walking, keep on a-talking, marching into freedom land
Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round, turn me around, turn me round
Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round
I’m gonna keep on a-walking, keep on a-talking, marching into freedom land
Theo: Good afternoon, this is Theo Henderson from we the Unhoused. Today’s D-Day, today is November 3rd, 2020, and this is the Big Election, city and government. We’re here to guess the president, the president running is President Trump against contender Joe Biden. As we are The Unhoused Community, they’re stating that our voices don’t matter, particularly locally. You may not be aware that there’s a battle going on citywide, with 41.18. City Attorney Mike Feuer, who gets $200,000 a year, is running around talking about order and displacing Unhoused people, who have very limited financial resources to afford the housing here in Los Angeles as well as to support themselves because of draconian COVID-19 and the economic policies. But here are things today where our voice matters. Unhoused voices are paramount in order for these issues that affect us, and for them to affect us, we have to be able to have a voice and to make sure they understand that we’re citizens of the United States as well. We have a voice, and it matters. So as we walk along and view some of the places in this voting location here at the Pantages Theater, this is one the places the unhoused community can vote.
Theo: I have in my hand my ballot, and when I complete it, I’m going to show you the next place where I’m going to put my ballot in. But you don’t have to put it in this spot, there’s also a place where you can put it here. But let’s take a walk and see where we are. As you can see, the signs adorned have the different languages, and you see “Attention Voters,” “No Waiting in Line, go right to the front,” “There’s a drop-off spot.” As you can see here, there’s a notice here about electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place. So you may be guilty of a misdemeanor if you’re polling for someone to run for office that’s on these ballots.
Here is a issue that, it’s not completely true, here is “voting solutions for all people.” “LA County’s New Voting Experience.” And they show you, “#1 you check in with your sample ballot, #2: you go to any available ballot marking device, #3: select the language and customize your setting, #4: begin voting or scan your poll pass, #5: review your selections on your screen and your ballot, #6: you cast your ballot back into the ballot marking device.”
Here’s where the unhoused community is not exactly “for everybody.” Let’s suppose that because of the legal difficulties, particularly 41.18, that precludes unhoused people from sitting in line, or sleeping, and basically our day-to-day existence, we’re unable to charge our phones. How are they going to be able to vote if they can’t charge their phones, if they’re being run out? Or, in my previous episodes, the guests have been saying, the police refuse to let them charge their phones in certain places and certain outlets. We’re in COVID-19! There are no places allowing unhoused people to come in and charge their phones. Starbucks has removed those charging places. The libraries are closed. So where are they going to? So how is this for “all people”?
Well one of the best solutions I’ve noticed is Street Watch, which has instituted for some time “Power Up!” It allows the community to charge their phones and plug into the society that so desperately wants them gone and erased. So one of the things we’re doing today is highlighting the places here. As you see, Hamilton’s playing here. As you see, voting “for all people” needs to realize that unhoused people are people that you have to consider, that maybe next time there’s voting places that will have charging stations for unhoused people to vote as well.
So as you can see, when we go through here, they enter through this location here. They get their pictures, and they say that they’re voting. The next time you’ll see me I’m going to be finishing with my ballot, and I’m going to put this in the dropoff ballot place. This is Theo Henderson from We the Unhoused, there will be more to follow. Today is D-Day, November 3rd, 2020. And it’s the Election of the Century, I have to say!
Theo: This is Theo Henderson from We the Unhoused. We’re still here in Hollywood, and we have one of our former guests, she was in episode 7 with Nithya Raman. And one of [Nithya’s] volunteers is out here helping to make sure her name is known to people that are potentially casting their ballots. Without further ado, let’s introduce and get her perspective, what does she think has been going on today? Hello, my name is Theo! What’s yours?
Carley: Hi, my name is Carley Torres!
Theo: Carley Torres. So tell us a little about what’s going on today.
Carley: Today I’m out here tabling. I’m just a volunteer for Nithya. We wanna make sure that people who haven’t been following the City Council election that closely maybe will know what our current Council member and Nithya Raman really stand for, their platforms. So we wanna make sure people have information before they come in to vote.
Theo: What is going on in the City Council right now? And why is this so important that we get on board this year?
Carley: Well there’s been recent talk of actually new legislation that would further criminalize homelessness, making it illegal to sit or sleep on the sidewalks in certain areas, without really providing enough services to get people in homes. One of Nithya’s really big platforms is actually getting services for people experiencing homelessness, not just talking about and saying, “Oh we’re trying,” but really doing the hard work to make sure we’re providing affordable housing and all the resources people need to get off the street.
Theo: Recently the City Attorney Mike Feuer who drafted the ordinance to expand and heighten 41.18, who makes $200,000 a year, who sleeps in a house every night, is trying to say that we could be compassionate by criminalizing the unhoused. What is your perspective on that?
Carley: To me it seems very obvious that that just doesn’t work. That’s been the policy so far. Nobody’s really proposing new initiatives. What we’re doing right now isn’t working, and so I’m really excited to get Nithya on the City Council to actually start her spurring on real change. People need housing.
Theo: Why do you think the City is still doing the same thing? How many lawsuits is it gonna take for them to stop criminalizing the Unhoused community? Do you think that if this measure passes that they’re gonna do would be successful in getting unhoused people housing?
Carley: I don’t think the measure would be successful at all. Hopefully it doesn’t pass at all. There’s been a pretty strong backlash. People have been asking for change, and this is the exact opposite of what we’re looking for. So hopefully this is dead in the water, and with Nithya on the City Council and more and more actual progressives in L.A., it’s a very progressive city, and it’s not really represented in our City Council. The City Council has so much power! So I’m hoping that this swell of support for progressive movements and causes…I’m hopeful with a more progressive City Council we’ll actually have the power to make changes and help end homelessness.
Theo: You know, one of the things I noticed, the fact that one of the people that pushed this, Nury Martinez, pushed this back to November 24th, and then this caused — there were people that were perhaps, people of color, that were making the same powerful statements that white supremacists would say about the unhoused community. In particular for example, some of these people you would see on the sidelines, they’re trying to cancel rent and rent forgiveness, why is it that they don’t see that houselessness is one step, one rung, between that? What if they don’t cancel rent? What happens when they go out on the street and those same proposals and measures are affecting them? Do you think they would change their tune?
Carley: I think so. I think it’s human nature, we all wanna think that we’re ok, we’re safe, you know? It’s not as bad for us. A lot of people don’t wanna reckon with the idea that so many people are one bad month, one health emergency, a layoff, from being in the same position, being housing unstable, being homeless. It’s scary! And people don’t wanna believe it could happen to them. So I hope people can really put themselves in others’ shoes and really be honest with themselves, and think about providing as much care as you’d want for your family, your friends. I don’t think anybody wakes up and thinks or wants or hopes to be homeless, but there’s so many things that can push you into that situation. And why not provide support so people can get out of that situation? Like canceling rent? We’re in a pandemic! So many of us are unemployed, myself included. To cancel rent and take that burden off people right now to keep people in their homes — it’s common sense to me, and I really hope people will come around.
Theo: It’s my hope that Nury Martinez does, ’cause according to her, her family’s safety is more important than unhoused people’s safety, people that have children too. They keep saying they’re concerned, but it’s for her and her family and people that are housed, it doesn’t seem to be concern about the unhoused families that are out here. Because these kids who Nury Martinez is always so concerned about, her children going to school, those are the ones, the message they tend to get from her and her kids.
Thank you very much again, this is Theo Henderson from We the Unhoused. We’re going to be milling about in different locations, getting out the word to vote and as well as learn some perspectives of different people. Thank you again, and may we again meet in the light of understanding.
INTERVIEW WITH PROTESTOR
Theo: Hey this is Theo Henderson from We the Unhoused. We’re out here and there are people who have different perspectives that we need to highlight. One we heard earlier about the necessity to vote, but there’s also a sign that caught my eye “YOUR VOTE VALIDATES THE CORRUPT SYSTEM.” I asked this gentleman his perspective, and he’s gonna give it to us a little bit, straight no chaser.
Protestor: Hi! The people have no power whatsoever, we’ve been told since the day we were born that we have certain things to do, certain rights, and voting is a thing that allows us to have our say in government, but money is the real power. People who have the most money control society. We’re told to vote to make us think that we have the power to make the changes necessary to make the changes necessary in this country, when we don’t. So that’s my perspective on things.
Theo: What solutions do you think will change the system then?
Protestor: The only solution is for everyone to go on a general strike, to disrupt the flow of profits into the pockets of greedy CEOS who are controlling society, once we trip up the economy that way, the people can rise up and create something new. However, it can’t be isolated in a particular country, because people are struggling all over the world.
Theo: Thank you very much for your perspective. This is Theo Henderson, we’re getting different perspectives on the street, and I hope we again meet in the light of understanding. Thank you again, sir!
INTERVIEW WITH GENERAL DOGON OF LOS ANGELES COMMUNITY ACTION NETWORK
General Dogon: 110 extra police to Skid Row, making it the most policed community, not only in America, but second in the world! Right? And for the next 10 years, the city of Los Angeles forward march to the sea to police their way outta homelessness, starting with Skid Row, because they want to gentrify Downtown. Because developers say, “We ain’t investing no money in that area until you clean it up!” You understand me? The city wanted numbers, they wanted to show that removing people — they wanted numbers of arrests. The same thing that they asked em for now, with the motion [41.18], you understand? When you look at their motions, they talk about what they did, they gave out 250 tents, “we gave 900 showers out to homeless people, “we gave out 12,000 [inaudible] kits, “we picked up 5,000 tons of trash,” you understand me?
Theo: Let’s back up on this shower thing, it pissed me off. Because if you say you did 900 showers, that means one person had one shower out of over 60,000. That’s barely a drop in the bucket! That’s like throwing me a cup of water and saying, “I did something because I gave out 900 showers over 60,000 people.” How ridiculous is that?!
General Dogon: Lemme tell you something, if it was in the City’s interest to do something for the Homeless, they’d have done it back in 2005. The only thing the City does is what the federal court makes them do. They do it just to say, “Oh we did it!” Just so they can try to get out of litigation. It’s temporary, it’s a step, it’s never permanent, it don’t lead to nothing but criminalization, whatever they do.
Theo: And that’s what they’re trying to do with this 41.18, that’s what they’re trying to do. Resume criminalizing the Unhoused with the idea of saying that they’re helping and bringing law and order on the streets. So, for example, in Bridge Housing, if you got 100 people in there — I’m being charitable there — and you’ve got over 60,000 unhoused people, the rest of the 50,000 unhoused people are going to be displaced because you are “doing something.” But where they’re going to be displaced is the question, because they’re gonna go to neighbors. The second thing they’re talking about, let’s be clear, that they’re not canceling rent. There’s gonna be people out on the streets. So on top of 60,000 we got another 120,000 possible people on the street. So where in the hell are they gonna go?
General Dogon: They don’t give a damn where they’re gonna go! The problem is, they’re worried about the property and the sight of homelessness. They don’t give a damn about the people. They wanna get rid of their property. They recognize that’s when they changed the fight in 2012, that’s what the timeline shows. From 2006 when they released [inaudible] all the way to 2012, it was all about them getting numbers of arrests, you understand me? They were arresting people like crazy! Now once they were hit with a lawsuit in 2012, the City was forced to stop taking people’s property, that’s what the Federal court told em. The city turned around and said, “If we can’t take people’s property, we ain’t gonna take trash, we ain’t gonna do none of this.”
Theo: Thank you very much, General! Here we are at Los Angeles Community Action Network. We’re getting perspectives of different people. We’re going to another special place. We got another special treat for you. We’re gonna also be doing it live there, and then also taping part of it for the next episode of We the Unhoused. I thank you all for listening, and I hope again we meet in the light of understanding.
Theo: This is Theo Henderson for We the Unhoused, and this is Unhoused News. Our top story in Portland, Oregon, protestors that barricaded themselves inside of a house of a mixed family, due to police intervention and support from the police by the mayor and the Portland Police Department. This couple was a victim of predatory loans and are subjected to gentrification tactics trying to evict the family that had been there for over 100 years. The mayor has given approval to attack and storm, or actually, militarily occupy the home of this place.
In other news, Mayor Garcetti of Los Angeles, California, was on track to be appointed the HUD (Department of Housing & Urban Development) appointee by President-elect Joe Biden. In response to this, Black Lives Matter activists have protested and gone to his home to reject that idea. There are many problems here in Los Angeles that Mayor Garcetti has ignored. And in response to our protests, Black Lives Matter was viciously attacked by the police department. As well, they attacked young children, elderly, and trampled on other activists in the area. No official statement has been given at this time about the horrific action. Mayor Garcetti did say, however, that the police and the protestors should be supported.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that there are unhoused people that have been ejected from the hotel that is being purchased to put more unhoused people in. Residents have been put out on the street unceremoniously by owner Patel who stated that they had no claim to stake that they were using the hotels at all. There’s more to follow on this story.
Los Angeles is currently weighing in on using the Staples Center as a place to put up Unhoused people. Make no mistake, they’re not using it out of a sense of caring for the Unhoused, they’re listening to the NIMBYs and trying to find a solution to get rid of them from the eyesight of NIMBYs. However, San Diego Convention Center has 55 unhoused staff members that have contracted COVID-19, so this is a major concern. Today We the Unhoused has its first exclusive! We interviewed an unhoused resident out in Chatsworth, nicknamed Gene, and this is his story.
INTERVIEW WITH GENE IN CHATSWORTH
Gene: Usually it’s cleaner and nicer in here [in my tent].
Theo: It’s clean enough! Haha. This is Theo Henderson from We the Unhoused. We are here in Chatsworth interviewing one of the residents here who’s making the best of a situation that’s pretty tough. Without further ado, let’s introduce ourselves. My name is Theo, what’s your name sir?
Gene: My name’s Gary, they call me Gene. One of the people who live on the block here.
Theo: How long have you been out here on the block?
Gene: Couple of years.
Theo: Oh! How did you come to be living out here like this?
Gene: One night I went home and my door was locked. My wife locked me out! Never had a chance to return home. I’ve never been homeless before, and um, we honestly knew I was sort of depressed. I didn’t care one way or the other, so for the first 7 days, I sat on the bus stop and moped and pouted and was depressed and realized that’s where I was gonna go unless I did something to change my situation. I come from a part of [inaudible] background. I had everything in life that someone could possibly want, so I decided to see how the other side lived.
Theo: What did you do for a living, if you were reasonably financially secure?
Gene: My wife worked in middle management at AT&T. She makes about $147,000 a year. Prior to that, I was a bankrobber.
Theo: You were a bankrobber?! Oh wow, this sounds like something out of the movies! How did you get into that, if you don’t me asking?
Gene: Well, it was years ago. Basically I did on a dare. My cousin dared me to do it, I did it, found that I liked it, finished college, and instead of going into the field that I went to school for, I decided to do that for a few years. For 3 years, I robbed banks —
Theo: And you didn’t get caught?
Gene: I didn’t get caught, but in the end I did go to prison for it.
Gene: Someone told on me, and I did 15 years in Federal prison for that. Came home, I’ve been home for almost 15 years and haven’t been back to prison since. I made a lot of money, and when that money ran out, I was basically depending on my wife to support me. She was [inaudible] with her paycheck, it was no problem, and then we broke up.
Theo: Did you have any children?
Gene: I have a daughter who lives in Los Angeles. I haven’t seen her in about 5 years.
Theo: Was that around the time you became unhoused?
Gene: Prior to me becoming unhoused. My daughter and I had words, they weren’t that volatile, but they were words in any case, she was resentful of me because I was gone, I was in prison. She basically didn’t see me as her father, as her “daddy” as she quoted. I was just a sperm donor, so I pretty much told her if that’s the case, I don’t need to be in your life. And I haven’t been. I live day-by-day out here, you know?
Theo: What was the hardest thing to do to live out here? What was your first night like?
Gene: First night I was out here, I just sat up all night, staring up and down the streets. And that time, most of the homeless people that are out here — it’s hard to explain — for myself, I saw them all as a whole new subculture, slightly below the norm. If you look at everything out here, it’s almost like a reversal of [inaudible]. What you see everyday, our days usually consist of being up all night, and our nights are being asleep during the day. During the day when we’re out and about, people shun us, people treat us bad. It’s hard dealing with the general public, very hard. What we do, we do everything we have to do at night. It’s hard, everything is closed at night, so if you need to take a shower or use the restroom or wanna eat, most places you eat are closed. So we eat a lot of fast food, for that matter. Basically it’s a lonely life. If you have friends out here, friendships are really hard to come by out here. True friendships. You spend most of your time hoping you don’t get victimized, and unfortunately we get victimized by the general public more than we do by each other.
Theo: Speaking of being victimized, today what caught my attention is someone who’s unhoused out here told me that the police were out here hassling the Unhoused. Is that a common occurrence? What happened today?
Gene: Generally the police ride through and they observe what’s going on around them. I’m finna cross the street, then as you can see, there’s a lot of stuff. It’s another thing to being homeless, it’s hard not to accumulate things, people give you stuff, you pick up stuff along the way. You end up with a lot of stuff that you have nowhere to put it. It’s just out in the open. Police drive by, they see that stuff, they pull up on you, if they saw a trailer, they wanna know if your trailer’s legal. “Is it registered?” They nitpick at anything that’s within the law, they straddle the line, they straddle the fence on that. For example, I had my tent in the middle of the sidewalk, the law states I can keep my tent up, but it has to have 3 feet of space on the sidewalk for a wheelchair to go by. If I don’t leave that much space, they can make me move that tent. They’ll stand there until I move the tent, despite it being set up like it is, it takes a long time to move it. Everything over here has to be moved to this side, and then it has to be pushed over, tied off, so we can’t go back over there, and then they’ll leave. And then they’ll wait a couple weeks, then come back and do it again. I can understand them having that law, I suppose, but as long as [inaudible] wheelchair come through here, that doesn’t mean anything to them. Also they changed the street out here, for parking, they changed the signs on a regular basis. Originally it was a green zone, which allows RVs to park there for a period of time, but the businesses get upset about them being here because of the generators and all the refuse and all the property stacked up outside kinda makes people shy away from the businesses. In which case, they get upset, notify the police department, the police come and they harass us about it, and they change the street signs that make us have to move.
Theo: The question too, is, they don’t regularly take your trash, so what are you supposed to do with trash? ’Cause I hear they lock em.
Gene: Sanitation comes every week or so, and they’ll ask us if we have any refuse to get rid of. And they’ll take anything we put out there, no matter how bulky, they’ll take it. So a lot of the times, people will pile trash in the area, and they’ll come through and pick the trash up. Meanwhile we have to wait for them to do that. People are trying to be as neat as they possibly can. If you walked along, you’d see trash in trash bags, trash is not just casually thrown on the ground. We try to bag stuff and put it in a place that’s neutral where it can be before it’s picked up. It’s the best thing we can do. As far as the police go, they know that we’re out here. They know a lot of us don’t have identification. A lot of us don’t have those normal things that see you through regular life. We don’t have that stuff. So when they come and ask for it, we don’t have it, and it gives them probable cause to search us, to harass us, and they do it. I mean, it’s like, example, if I had a vehicle and one of the taillights was out, the taillight could’ve just blown right there. I can tell them, “It just blew out right now.” But it’s still probable cause to search a vehicle. Some people have their legal things in their vehicle, some people don’t. But harassment is harassment! I mean, in real life, to stay out here, they probably wouldn’t have even pulled us over, but because we’re homeless, they do. Most homeless people who have vehicles you’ll notice are filled-with-stuff-to-overflowing, so it’s easy to identify them just by that alone. I live in a tent cause I chose to, I could’ve bought an RV, but I see the trouble that those with an RV go through, and this is easy for me to pack up stuff. A lot of this stuff I picked up along the way.
Theo: This is a unique perspective, I didn’t have a tent because somebody tried to set me on fire in one. I slept in a sleeping bag because I felt it was scarier, particularly where it depends on the neighborhood. When I lived in Downtown LA, it’s a lot more dangerous because a lot of people don’t like to see the Unhoused people with tents. So they’ll go and try to set em on fire, and yeah — OH YEAH! — it was a big thing. So I felt it the easiest, best way was to have a sleeping bag —
Gene: Out in the open?
Theo: Yeah! I can see and I could get up in time. Because they don’t like Unhoused people there. Also they have things like Business Improvement District, who are buddy-buddy with police. They’ll allow them to do illegal things, and then when the police come, they claim and pretend like they don’t know what’s going on. Or they would just nudge and wink at the BID [security guards], and just go on and allow them the illegality. So this is just one of the cases and points here. What I also thought was people would be safer having an RV. But you’re telling me that’s not the case here?
Gene: No, when you have an RV, it costs money to register those things. It costs money to run ’em, you have to put gas in them. You have to find some place to dump your waste, your liquid waste as well as your regular refuse. And that has to be done on a regular basis, not talking about weekly. Daily! You have to have somewhere to dump that stuff. That’s what they call black water and gray water. Gray water is water with just piss in it basically. And then you have black water which has, you know, whatever, you know, the other! So you need a place to dump that stuff, not only like that, like I said, people accumulate things, man. So an RV is almost like having a house on wheels. You can only get so much in them, but because we live out here and everything that we get, there’s a possibility of selling it and making a little money because we don’t have a job, we have to live!
Theo: Like bikes, people think we’re stealing the bikes. Can you tell us a little bit about why we see people with a lot of bikes?
Gene: Well most of us can’t afford cars, and a bike is cheaper to own than a car. To be honest with you, a lot of the bikes that these guys have are stolen. I mean, I would imagine that the opportunity presents itself — I don’t ride bikes myself — but if the opportunity presents itself, they’ll come up on a bike. But they do it because they need a way to get around, and you have guys who take them because they wanna sell and make money on them.
Theo: Or the ones who I’ve noticed, the ones I see people collect parts because the bike wears out, or they have a side hustle where they’ll fix other people’s bikes, that’s a thing too!
Gene: They do that too. I know a guy who repairs bikes, and he’ll have 40 bikes outside their spot! And it looks like they stole the bikes, but that’s not the case at all. You’re right! A lot of the times, it’s other homeless people who’ve asked them to repair a bike. And they bring you over a little repair. Most bikes, when they pull these guys over on these bikes, 95% of the time the bikes belong to these guys. I mean they’ll actually go out and buy a bicycle, or they’ll buy one from a lot of the bike shops where they sell bikes cheap. Where some are repaired and the person didn’t pick it up, they’ll resell it for $40 or $50, and guys will buy them. Incidentally, most of the bikes that are stolen aren’t stolen from the general public, they’re stealing them from these guys and each other.
Theo: That’s a very good point. I noticed particularly people have been released from prison —
[Gene motions if it’s ok to smoke in his tent]
Theo: — on no, please absolutely, you’re in your home, we’re guests! And I wanted to tell you, if you look here, your house has a sense of a feeling of welcoming. It’s not spartan, like for example, the Christmas lights, describe the situation. Why have it decorated like this?
Gene: The lights that you see, that you see plainly right now are run by electricity, but I also have lights in here that are run by battery. They’re a calming effect. The females that I know out here, a couple are my good friends, they come by and the lights have a sort of ambience. It allows people to relax and kick back. It’s not bright enough to become a bother or annoyance to people. People look over and see it and don’t see a harsh glare [inaudible]. They see something that’s kinda cool, kinda relaxing. Then I play my music.
Theo: I heard it!
Gene: I play my music, and I play nice music! Hip-hop. It’s cool, it’s relaxing.
Theo: I was gonna say because I am a foodie, I see you have a culinary set. Do you cook?
Gene: I do. A lot.
Theo: Ok! That might be a second hustle, huh?
Gene: I cook for the people out here. I go out, I go shopping, buy 3–4 allotments of food, and I feed everybody. And they eat it! It makes me feel good. My money goes to something other than the wrong thing. I will admit that in the past, when I was home, I was just, I was —
Theo: You were in a bad space.
Gene: Yeah. I was in a real bad space psychologically. I was doing drugs and having my fun doing that. At some point, doing drugs is no longer fun. I have a lot of pretty bad injuries that — you could call it, I was hooked on painkillers. Then of course they’re not always gonna be readily available. So I went to the other alternative, which was heroin. Something I never thought I’d be doing in my entire life. I almost can’t exist without it now. I can barely get out of bed without it now. I don’t use heroin to get high.
Theo: The pain’s in your head, the health issues. You were telling me about the third degree burns and stuff, could you talk about it? So tell me what happened?
Gene: I was in somebody’s RV, lit the stove — that’s the other thing, so many other situations develop out here. I lit the stove, didn’t know anything about it. The stove being lit required that you light a pilot, and we didn’t. And he had two propane tanks going, and it was rapidly filling up with propane. And I’m sitting there talking to him and decided to light a cigarette, and I lit the torch, and the flame of the torch was acting funny, and I realized why it was acting funny, it was too late. I was like, “Oh my god!” The whole entire thing filled up with fire, in a flash! I was surrounded by fire. He ran out, his arms got burned very bad. My face, my head, my hands, parts of my arms, I have blisters everywhere. I was at the burn center at West Hills for 11 days. 2 surgeries. It just showed me how life out here is so fragile. Anything can happen at any minute, your life can be over.
Theo: I got stabbed four years ago, so I know. I was in ICU for like several months, and I had to learn how to walk again. I was in the park, I got stabbed in 8 places. I had part of my colon removed, part of my stomach removed, and other places. One of my intestines is attached to the one of the walls —
Gene: Wow! Where were you homeless at?
Theo: I was down in Chinatown in Los Angeles, like I told you, it’s very violent.
Gene: It’s very different out here. I had a friend down there, a girl named April, and she has some really serious psychological problems. When she took her medication, she was cool. When she didn’t, she was horrible. I was on one of those streets down there one day sitting in one of those chairs, she just wanted to do something simple like charge her phone in my car. I told her, “No, I have to go.” She started screaming, “You won’t let me charge my phone in your [expletive] car!” And all these dudes come out of these tents, and I was alone. And I thought, if I don’t get away from here, something bad’s about to happen to me. So I had to get away from there, and I’ve never been back down there since. They showed, just by her actions, how things can change in an instant! And your life could be in danger, you know? And then coming out here, I mean, we’re in a situation prior to this, over on Sepulveda and Sherman Way, with this Big Lot, the homes moved to it and it was like a little village. And this one guy moved in there and decided he was gonna take over the lot, and he began to — it was horrible, to say the least. He began abusing people, females, threatening to kill people, shoot them with guns, the whole 9 yards, until he ran everybody up out of that lot. He himself ended up being shot, all this happened in the last 45 days.
Theo: Oh my god! I’m sorry to hear that.
Gene: I had to get away from it. Being homeless, man, for a lot of us out here is not a choice. We just have no choice.
Theo: Thank you for saying that! Because people think it’s like, you’re living like out in the mansions or you’re living a luxurious life, but this is a very difficult life.
Gene: You go to sleep every night, you’re scared. You wake up scared. Halfway through the day, you’re scared. You’re always afraid something bad’s gonna happen, because something bad is always gonna [expletive] happen, but it doesn’t matter because you’re a person crossing the street. Someone you knew real well and became friends with, a couple days later somebody will kill them. It’s just how life is for us out here, it’s a constant threat. Hoping you’ll wake up the next day. All I think about now is death, and it’s a horrible feeling to think about dying and whether you’ll be here next week. Will your family know about it? Will anybody miss you? Will anybody come to your funeral? Will there be a funeral, you know? The whole 9 yards. And then you have the police recently started housing the homeless in these hotels.
Theo: Project Roomkey, right?
Gene: Yeah, Project Roomkey. That right there has a lot of people worried also because they’re wondering why, all of a sudden, the City can afford to put people in these nice, luxury hotels, putting them up on a daily basis [inaudible] 24 hours a day, in the hotel by the airport, the rooms there start at $200 a day. Why are we being housed like that? Sportsman Lodge, the rooms start there at $400 a day. How is it that they’re able to take over the Sportsman Lodge and put a homeless person in every single room?! And afford that? What’s the purpose behind that? People think there’s a conspiracy going on.
Theo: Well the reason they’re doing that is because public pressure has, because COVID-19, as you probably know now, has been killing off a lot of people, and it’s spiked in Los Angeles. And they were worried that people that live on the street would take up hospital beds for housed people, so that was the reason. It wasn’t because of concern, it was just because they didn’t want Unhoused people to be taking up the medical services that housed people could take advantage of.
Gene: They throw us on the backburner! It’s cheaper to put us in a hotel room than it is to put us in a hospital. I was in the burn center 11 days, the hospital bill for my stint came close to a million and a half dollars.
Theo: Oh my god, that’s expensive!
Gene: That’s with the two surgeries, I mean I didn’t realize it was that expensive. The thing I see, though, is that having the Homeless housed in these hotels, in my opinion, it was a good thing in the beginning —
Theo: But where are they gonna go afterwards?
Gene: They said they’re gonna house them afterwards?
Theo: But they’re not! There’s a big scandal in the Los Angeles Times, talking about they’re throwing out people that were there to put other poor people there. The whole idea was, which the governor claimed to say is, well what they’re going to do is “Project Roomkey to Project Homekey.” That they get a spot where they won’t throw them out on the streets. Well guess what? The shelters shut down, the parks and recreation, the shelters used in Project Room Key are running out of money, and Unhoused people are gonna go back on the street. And there are new unhoused people that I’ve interviewed that are gonna be jacked up too! So that’s the reality of what’s been going on.
Gene: The thing that bothers me most about it is those who don’t wanna be in these rooms, who don’t wanna be a burden of society, we’d rather be able to set up a tent somewhere to the side, out of the way, and then like that, not bothering anyone, they don’t want us to do that. There are people out of the way, not bothering anyone, and they come in droves and their vans and trucks, and say, “Hey, you wanna go to a hotel?” A lot of people didn’t wanna go to a hotel, they wanna stay here.
Theo: Part of the reason too, is they treat them like they’re in a jail and prison, too, that’s why!
Gene: Another thing is, you go to one of these hotels, you’re subjected to move searches and property searches that are now unconstitutional, in my opinion. I mean, they’re searching for stuff, as far as I understand about the law and search and seizure, they can’t do that without a search warrant. But they do it anyway! They use it as a reason to keep people out of these hotels. What right do you have to search my property, if this is a hotel?
Theo: Not only that, too, with substance usage or mental health issues — they’re not gonna magically become sober! And they have a relapse, and you throw them back out on the street. But you know, they had their situation together, or some semblance of their own stuff, but now they’ve started all over again.
Gene: You know what’s so sad about that? Once they do kick people back out on the street, they’re gonna be 10 times worse than they were before. Because they get used to living a certain way in these hotels, and everything is a certain way, they’re not gonna have it that way when they hit the streets again, they’re gonna want some semblance of that, and they’re not gonna be able to get it. It’s gonna cause problems. It’s gonna cause serious problems. For myself, this is the third time I’ve set up what I call my home. My house looks this way cause I like a home. I don’t like it being just a tent, with stuff on the floor with a couple suitcases. I like to turn on my TV and watch TV, listen to my music, cook something to eat, have somebody over for dinner or whatever, have a nice cold drink, and be able to have all these things without being a burden on society. I don’t ask society for nothing.
Theo: But you also wanna have a semblance of what you had before, because every Unhoused person I’ve interviewed has the same thing, they want some semblance of normalcy. They want to be where they’re not a burden to society, true, but they also want to live not like they’re having to survive at a moment’s notice, they’re worried about their head being bashed in or stabbed to death or that kind of stuff.
Gene: Exactly! I went from living in a $3,000 a month apartment on Willis and Ventura Boulevard to living here. Prior to that apartment, I was living in a $2 million house to living in an apartment. So I know how to live in a lap of luxury. This is not the lap of luxury. This is barely getting there, barely making it. This is an air mattress, not a real mattress, ok? I have to replace it every 3–4 weeks, so I’m struggling everyday just to survive, just to make it. People come through here who are not homeless and they glance inside my tent —
Theo: And they think you’re living in a lap of luxury, right?
Gene: They see the big screen TV and hear music playing, and they think, “My god, look at this guy!” They see the lights and think, “Wow, he has it made!”
Theo: ’Cause there was a nasty report by this horrible reporter saying “McMansions” or having a tiki bar and things like that, and when you say this, what would you say when people think you’re living like you’re in a mansion?
Gene: I tell em, show me a mansion that looks like this! Show me a mini-mansion that looks like this! Better than that, show me a house that looks like this. I’m not living in a mansion, you know what I’m saying? I get food stamps every month, like any poor person does, you know what I’m saying? I have to live every day from hand to mouth, it’s not like I can go to the bank and pull money out or write a check. If I get sick, I have to hope that the paramedics take me to a hospital. Last time I got sick, they kicked me out of the hospital. I crawled on my hands and knees through the hospital to the sidewalk, where I collapsed, because they found heroin in my system and said I was self-medicating and there was nothing they could do for me. And they kicked me out of the hospital. With kidney stones. Let me show you my surgical scars. I almost died, you know what I’m saying? Almost died! When I sit on the corner for two hours, and when the paramedics finally showed up, they were like, “Oh my god!” Because I had blisters everywhere, and I told them, and they began to panic. “Well where’s this RV at? Is the other guy ok?” All of these different things. I realized the reason they were treating me that way was because they didn’t know I was homeless. If they had known I was homeless, I wonder if they’d treated me the same way. They took me to the best hospital I could ever go to for treatment, which was the Grossman Park Center in West Hills. It’s a multi-billion dollar corporation that caters to those who can afford it. I got lucky. I was blessed, they pretty much kept me from — I could’ve died. I’m grateful for that. It’s just sad how we get treated out here, it’s like, people shy away from us as if we have a disease or something. I know for a fact, I’m out here with these homeless people. There are less homeless people with COVID than the general public.
Theo: But the general public insists on putting themselves in front us, and that actually someone had the nerve, who was obviously sheltered and ignorant, saying they got offended by how I said that housed people have more COVID outbreaks than unhoused people. And it’s a fact!
Gene: It is a fact. It goes back to when we had the Black Plague back in the 16/17th century, when ignorant people locked themselves in their houses, you see? Because they didn’t know any better, which caused 20 million people to die. And the thing is, ignorance is always gonna [expletive] follow ignorance, always gonna put people in a bad place. I wear a mask because I’m afraid somebody in the general public is gonna give me this [expletive]. When I go to a gas station or store or something, and I have my mask on, they’re worried about me because I’m homeless. But I’m worried about them because they’re not! Because they’re the ones who are doing this [expletive], not me! I’m not spreading COVID! The general public is spreading COVID. And if people woke up and saw that, they would realize that, well, maybe the Homeless have something going on here. Just keeping to yourself, keeping your hands clean, and basically not interacting in no way that would be hazardous to your or other person’s health. They won’t allow us into the hospitals, thank god! ’Cause that’s where it’s at. If you’re homeless going to a hospital, they tell us we can’t be admitted. Or we can’t be seen because of COVID. Ok well, guess what? Your hospital, all your beds are filled up with people from the general public. What does that tell you about the Homeless? We must be doing something right! But if we do something wrong, but it turns out to be right, because I haven’t had any semblance of COVID. And when I was in a hospital for this burn from the explosion, they kept testing me for COVID, which drove me crazy because they stick a q-tip all the way up to your sinus cavity. It’s driving me nuts. I’d say, “Stop doing that!” I kept asking why they were testing me for COVID. “Because you’re homeless.” Because I’m homeless? How many people do you know that have COVID who are homeless? And they had to shut up! Because all the people they had in bed were not homeless, they were well-to-do wealthy people. Oh my god, the president was exposed to it! The Church of England was exposed to it. Here’s a man who’s mom is worth billions of dollars, and he was exposed to COVID. What does that tell you?
I’m tired of people judging me. I’m Black, and I’m never worried so much about being judged for being Black anymore, prejudice was rampant in this country in the 60s and 70s. Now I’m more worried about being criticized or attacked because I’m homeless! When did being homeless become a crime? When did being without the ability to live in a house become a crime? Why is it because I don’t have a house and car and 2 and a half kids, why is it a crime? What did I ever do to anybody? I didn’t do anything to anybody. My wife has anything anybody could ever want right now. She’s less than ten miles from me, and she’s one of the most depressed people I know on the planet. Why is that it’s not a crime that she’s living in a lap of luxury, but it’s a crime that I’m living out on the block. I mean literally, a cop told me one day, I told him I didn’t have any ID, he said, “Well I gotta arrest you for that.” Why?! What if somebody had stolen my ID an hour ago? Why am I being tortured and picked on, harassed because I don’t have an ID. I don’t have any idea because [expletive] they wanna take me to jail. I mean, my history on the books, when they look at my police record, they stop talking to me. Because they know I have nothing to say to them. I already know what the game is. So I don’t wanna speak to them. But when I sit here and watch, this morning when they came to harass them, he wasn’t bothering anybody. They come up on him in droves and messed with him for almost an hour. They were trying to find some way to take his stuff, take his trailer and destroy it. They came through 2 weeks ago and took people’s vehicles — you know they can’t afford to get that stuff out of impound. So it’s just gone! My homegirl down the way, she had 2 RVs full of stuff. They took both of their RVs with hundreds of dollars for the things in them, would not let them get their things out of these RVS, took the RVs away, and they weren’t able to recover their things. Why is that ok? That would never happen to someone in the private sector. These RVs parked out here, they harass them all the time. I can go back to any of these neighborhoods, these RVs parked at any of these houses, in the driveways, the cops never say anything to them about these RVs. Why? Because nobody is living in them? I don’t understand, man, I’m just one person amongst thousands who are only trying to live every day. Yourself and myself, we’re both lucky to be alive bro. Living out here on these streets, we’re lucky to be alive. We have each other to worry about, in terms of being victimized. The general public victimizes us, the police victimize us. Pretty soon, the National Guard’s gonna be here victimizing us. Won’t be long, man.
Theo: This is Theo Henderson for We the Unhoused, and I thank you for taking your time. I wanna ask, could we come back and check on you?
Gene: Love to, man, tell you what we’re going through.
Theo: Thank you. I hope you have a safe holiday. I wish more of our listeners meet in the light of understanding and listen to your words. Thank you very much for your time.
Gene: Just one thing: we’re not the enemy. We’re the same person you are, just fell on a little bit of a hard luck. That’s all it is, man, we’re just like you. You know?
Theo: Well said, well said.
UNHOUSED NEWS in front of a new mural of Theo Henderson
Theo: This is Theo Henderson for We the Unhoused, and this is Unhoused News. Today I’m standing in a new location where we’re doing We the Unhoused: Unhoused News. Here I’m standing on 8th Street and Columbia at the ACLU building to provide some history about the ACLU. ACLU has been known for fighting for the underdog, and they continue to do so. It is a great honor to be considered and put on as a mural here on ACLU’s door. I hope to live up to this expectation and this great honor, but I also wanna thank some people here that have done this. Margaret Chan studio has done an extraordinary job in getting images out there of other activists as well. As well as getting the story [inaudible] as well with these great heroes on here. Also I would like to thank People’s City Council, the Democratic Socialists, and Los Angeles CAN, Street Watch, Ktown For All, and many others who have greeted me and thanked me and gave me so many good well wishes about this excellent or exciting news. This is one of the things that I’m very glad about, one of the legacies that hopefully maybe open the door for many others to be able to see that they can do it as well. No matter if they’re housed or unhoused. This is Theo Henderson for We the Unhoused. I thank you all for listening, and may we again meet in the light of understanding.
INTERVIEW WITH HARVEY IN THE EL PUEBLO SECZ (SAFETY ENFORCEMENT & CLEANING ZONE)
Theo: This is Theo Henderson for We the Unhoused. Today is Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020. We are here to discuss voting rights of the Unhoused. We’re going all over LA in different spots to talk to different people to figure out how they feel about the election. What’s their thoughts on it? Basically go and investigate some of the polling spots, as well. So in the studio is Mr Harvey. Mr Harvey has been a guest a few times, and I wanted to introduce him, talk to him about his experiences with what’s happened today, and ask him some questions about what he thinks. How can we galvanize the Unhoused’s voting power? So without further ado, thank you for joining us Harvey.
Harvey: Thank you for having me.
Theo: So tell us what happened today. You were just mentioning a little bit.
Harvey: Yeah we didn’t expect sanitation to show up today. I was hoping for them to come yesterday, but they never showed up to pick up the trash like they normally do. I was gonna ask them yesterday if we still had to move today, with it being Voting Day today, and apparently they never showed up yesterday. So, they did show up today, and we did have to move off the sidewalk this morning.
Theio: Are you guys worried, because I’ve noticed around, and particularly the gentrified areas, the places that criminalize Unhoused people. They’re bordering up their buildings and the Business Improvement District nearby, or police nearby. Are you worried, let’s say for example, the Trump voters or vigilante voters try to target you guys? The police would come and hassle you during this time?
Harvey: Yeah, there was an incident that happened not too long ago, 3–4 weeks ago, where some protestors were right here in front of the court house where Jackie Lacey is at, and they kinda got rowdy. They were like marching all night, and then they got to this corner over here on Aliso, and the cops blocked it. So, they blocked them from coming further this way towards us, but there was a couple of times where the highway patrol will be covering the entrances and exits of the freeway back here, and told us that if you don’t want to get arrested, get inside your tent and stay there until we finish.
Harvey: Yeah, it was like a courtesy in a way, by telling us that because they knew that we’re here. They said it to me, they said it to a lot of these people.
Theo: Let me get this straight. Protests are a First Amendment right, so they’re telling you if you don’t want to get arrested, stay in your tents?
Harvey: Right, so they don’t mistake us for protestors.
Theo: But we have the right to protest.
Harvey: Right! But they’re trying to avoid people from going to the freeway like the last time [protestors] stopped the freeway. They were actually inside the 101 Freeway right here, the Hollywood Freeway, and they were on the freeway. And that’s what they were trying to do, but because they were getting really nasty — the cops — they gave us at least that much, to say, you know, if you don’t wanna be arrested —
Theo: That’s martial law! It is! We’re American citizens, this is not a third-world country! They’re telling you that you can’t come out of your tent. If you come out, let’s say you gotta go to the bathroom and they see you, does that mean they’re gonna arrest you?
Harvey: That’s a good question!
Theo: So those are the issues. One of the reasons why this election is so pivotal, as well as Unhoused people getting a voting bloc or voting rights idea. So, what’s your thoughts, do you think we’re gonna have a peaceful election? Or is it gonna be a bit sticky?
Harvey: [inaudible] what the numbers are right now, because if Biden is winning, then no. But if he’s losing, yeah! ’Cause earlier today also, too, this morning, when I got up like around 6:30, about twenty motorcycle LAPD officers went through here, and they went that way towards City Hall. So I’m assuming they might’ve stationed themselves over there, I don’t know. I haven’t gone over there, but there were twenty of them that went through this block early this morning.
Theo: You know there’s a voting center at Union Station? Do you guys worry, being unhoused, about going to vote? Have you voted already? What’s your thoughts? This is gonna really be contentious, what is your plan?
Harvey: I don’t know how many people out here that vote, but I’m one! I already did it about 3 weeks ago. In fact, it was late because of the mail not getting it to me on time. I deposited it over in El Monte, they had those metal boxes —
Theo: Yeah, they had one near Hollywood too.
Harvey: Yeah, they put those out. I asked the girl standing next to it, I said, “It’s late! What’s gonna happen?” She said not to worry about it and that she knew this was gonna happen. It will be counted, she said, even though I’d passed the deadline. She said it will be counted, you can deposit it in here, and you don’t have to worry about it.
Theo: But President Trump said there’s some tomfoolery and trickery going on, that they’re gonna be discounted, so that’s interesting. Let’s say, for example, that the President loses. Do you think he’ll have to be escorted out of the presidency? Because he’s telling his friends to “stand by and stand back,” you know? “The election is rigged,” and all that kind of thing. What’s your thoughts on it?
Harvey: I hope he’s kicking and screaming, because I will love to see that! And him trying to say this was all rigged, “I’m staying!” I would love to see a cop go up to him and put handcuffs on him, and say, “You’re being removed. You’re no longer in office.”
Theo: So he’s gonna be displaced, like the unhoused community! Which interestingly brings up the election here in our locale. In Los Angeles, California, there are some punitive measures against the Unhoused community. One of them is 64.44, 56.11, 41.18 to name a few. And these were born out of punitive measures, the rich, the greedy, and people who have very hostile and hateful ideas about Unhoused people. They use gaslighting techniques to say that we have to have balance, law and order. And if their idea of law and order is criminalizing the Unhoused, so! With that said, the City Attorney Mike Feuer, who makes over $200,000 a year, who lives in a house, who goes to sleep without any thought about Unhoused people having to deal with the challenges of the winds and rains of heaven, the Unhoused families like Nury Martinez, who always claims about her precious little children, where the Unhoused families have to worry about the winds and rains of heaven, where are they gonna sleep at night? And worry about her offspring, her friends who vilify the Unhoused and say they’re all criminals or drug addicts, they are putting forth amended 41.18 to criminalize the Unhoused who are near a Bridge Shelter. And what a Bridge Shelter is, it maybe holds at most 100 Unhoused people. So if you got a shelter in your community, that will give them carte blanche to go and take the rest of the maybe over 59,000 Unhoused people and arrest them and displace them. Because there are no shelters here, there is no housing, and any time we talk about entertaining encampment-to-housing instead of encampment-to-shelter, that conversation dies down. So, with that said, what is your perspective, if they pass this thing on November 24th, what is your plan? How are you guys gonna survive out here?
Harvey: They said that we have to be, what? 500 feet away from a Bridge shelter? Because we got 2 of them. One is down over here, and the other one is the original one, the first one built, which is down the street from here, three blocks. I’m gonna say this, Chinatown: you got new residents.
Theo: But here’s the thing —
Harvey: Wait! I haven’t finished! Whatever those bastards over here in the red shirts (BID security guards), which is their security, whatever they say is not gonna work. Because they’re gonna be calling the cops daily, every damn hour, every damn minute. I don’t give a shit. They’re gonna be doing that, because we’re gonna move over there. Whether they like it or not. It’s still public domain, it’s not owned by the Chinese. It’s not owned by anybody other than the taxpayers, who are paying for these sidewalks to be kept the way they’re supposed to be.
Theo: What about, you got George Yu, who’s president of the Business Improvement District. He goes around terrorizing Unhoused people. He’s known to take lead pipes and sick his dogs on Unhoused people. How are you guys gonna handle that?
Harvey: Hahaha you gotta remember, I live amongst homies. I got a lot of homeboys, and they don’t really use sticks and stuff like that. They use more, like, knives and guns. [George] wants a fight? Fine, we’ll fight him. It’s not gonna be hard to find out where he lives and tear up that house. I mean, if that’s what he wants to do, fine! I’m game!
Theo: Surprisingly, he doesn’t live in Chinatown. I think he lives — I won’t tell where he lives. But also here’s the other bad news: they’re using the excuse of Judge Carter’s ruling of trying to get prior towards the Unhoused who are near bridges and overpasses, and to give them first-come, first-served shelter. And while that is going on, Mitch O’Farrell met with the NIMBYs and people who detest the Unhoused, and said he’s trying to create a shelter to force the Unhoused at Echo Park Lake to either go to the shelter or go to jail. And then they’re gonna make steps, probably illegally, to force or make sure that Unhoused people don’t return. So this is the reality that the City has passed, or are passing, and are doing it behind the scenes. So what is your perspective on that?
Harvey: First of all, they’re not getting it. The Judge also said to either house us in a shelter or get us housing.
Theo: They’re big thing is shelters, they don’t give a shit about housing haha!
Harvey: They’re leaving the housing part out, because there’s none. The shelters — what does the law say about sheltering people with the disease being out? Isn’t it supposed to be six feet apart? How are you gonna fit that capacity of a bunch of homeless people in these stupid shelters, when we’re supposed to be 6 feet apart?
Theo: FYI: Union Rescue Mission had over 100 people infected with COVID-19 in the early stages, so that’s also not a feasible plan. But apparently, according to Mike Feuer on KPCC, anytime we talk about criminalizing Unhoused people, we’re not compassionate. “We can compassionately put you in jail, lock you up and give a record.” That’s compassion, according to Mike Feuer, who makes over $200,000 a year, and he can sit at home and compassionately put you in jail, criminalize you to get you out of the sight of gentrifiers in this community.
Harvey: I don’t know about it being a criminal offense, because being homeless is not a crime.
Harvey: And there isn’t a law in our law books in the state of California or anywhere, that says that it is a crime for a homeless person to go through.
Theo: But Mike Feuer is in constant talks with the Council members who see his vision. But for example, Joe Buscaino, he believes in sweeping Unhoused people, and he’s taking it back to reopening the CARE act. You know, the CARE sweeps and how vicious they were. You know, even though it may not be on the books, but they in practice are getting away with it because they know the Unhoused are not galvanized yet, but we’re galvanizing to be able to push back against this.
Harvey: No matter what they did, in the past they did try to take it to a judge to make it into a crime. They even went as high as the Supreme Court. They said no, that it’s still unconstitutional to make homelessness into a crime, because it really isn’t a crime. It’s something that happens to people, you know?
Theo: You’re preaching to the choir, and I agree! However, the City has been sued multiple times, and they still don’t seem to get it. And like you’re saying in the beginning, they just don’t get it! If they continue to keep doing that, [inaudible ]these are ideas that We the Unhoused as well as Unhoused voters need to really start to think about. Any town we hear conversation like in Venice talk about “transient, hobo, feces,” those dog-whistle words. We should have our own District Attorney put out criminal acts that criminalize them, in order for us to get some help. Because this is getting ridiculous! How many times does it take for the City to realize being poor is not a crime? And continuously harassing and displacing people is not solving the problem. The Olympics of 2028 is coming, it’s still going to be an issue.
Harvey: It’s always gonna an issue! No matter what! That was also [Mayor] Garcetti’s stupidness, he was gonna try to figure out how he was gonna house everybody. But then again, I don’t know the Olympics Committee, they do have rules, they’re not supposed [inaudible] any of the homeless people or anything like that. Apparently that’s happening! I don’t understand why the Olympics Committee doesn’t see that. I don’t know why they’re not acknowledging that the City is actually doing that.
Theo: Part of the reason that is, is because these same people who make $200,000 a year are sitting on the committees and creating the belief system that Unhoused people don’t want help. “They’re resisting, they’re criminals, they’re drug addicts, they’re going to the bathroom on the streets.” It’s very easy to pass this narrative. And then when you get some of the working class that have intersections with poverty themselves and pit them against poorer people, then that’s what you have. This is Theo Henderson from We the Unhoused. We’re going to head next to Union Station, and we’re going to interview a few people there as well. Please stay posted! Thank you very much, Harvey. That was really great!
INTERVIEW WITH A VOTER HOLDING A SIGN NEAR UNION STATION
Theo: This is Theo Henderson for We the Unhoused. On our way to Union Station, the ballot voting place, we came across an interesting statement here. “GO VOTE GENZ.” I don’t know what “genz” is.
Sign Holder: “Gen Z.” This is a poster that says to “G VOTE GEN Z.” Gen Z is Generation Z.
Theo: Oh! Like Generation X-Y-Z ok ok!
SIgn Holder: I do have it on the back side. It’s like, “Go Vote Millennial” And I’m voting for Joe Biden, because I wanna keep the peace.
Theo: Why aren’t you voting for Trump?
Sign Holder: I don’t have anything against Trump. I think he’s done what he did, it’s good for what he’s doing right now. I just want more support in the poverty area, for people who do need help and money right now. The economy’s not doing so well, and so we do need more assistance in this area over here in America.
Theo: Why isn’t Trump doing that?
Sign Holder: Trump’s doing that, it’s just um, I just noticed there’s a sort of, just riots going on. So many things with, like, racist comments —
Theo: If he is doing that, then why is he making the racist comments? And the tension that’s going, I’m just curious. I’m not saying Joe Biden is all sunshine and light, but why, if he is doing that, then why would he make a statement about taking racial connotations and different hostile takes about Unhoused people and poor people in general?
Sign Holder: Yeah. I’m just more focusing on having a president that does what he does, but I do want a president that has [inaudible] we can model off of, I do want things to be done and the economy things to be helpful and give assistance in areas that do need assistance. And each president can do that, and can offer that. But the image of the president can come off more as, you know, right now we need peace. We don’t need more fuel to the fire, we need balance.
Theo: So Trump is obviously not about balance and peace, and that’s the vibe I’m getting from you. So that’s why you aren’t voting Trump. So what made you get out, what makes this election so different than the other elections?
Sign Holder: That’s a very good question. I remember when Obama was president, I didn’t vote.
Theo: Why not?
Sign Holder: I wasn’t that involved. I was more in my, kinda like what’s going on with Generation Z right now. They’re kinda just having fun! Having fun and just living their life, but I just wanted to make a statement that when I was around that sort of stage in my life, I just didn’t wanna get involved. And because of that, things can happen when you don’t get involved, and then things can get out of hand because you’re not participating in it. You want things to go the way you want, please get involved! I didn’t do that.
Theo: That’s a very good question, because I’m unhoused, and I deal with the Unhoused community. And the difficulty for the Unhoused to get involved is particularly because of the difficulties that societies and the City make for us. Let me give you an example: Mike Feuer, who makes over $200,000, and he’s in a city and lives in a house, has tried to create an amended 41.18. Do you know what 41.18 is?
Sign Holder: Right now, I do not.
Theo: 41.18 is an ordinance, it’s an illegal ordinance to criminalize Unhoused people. This is why: if they have a shelter for like 45 people, and right now the last count is over 60,000 Unhoused people that try to live their lives just like housed people that are working class. Trying to survive a very difficult system. What he wants to do, just like what he would with the housed community or working class people in Chinatown, he would criminalize them and make it against the law just to survive, sit and sleep and stay near a sidewalk because there are no shelters and no housing for us. And one of the things that really makes it difficult for Unhoused people, is we’re not able to get places like the libraries that closed because of the pandemic. We can’t charge our phones, we don’t have the systems in place enough to really support us, and right now on the 24th of November, they’re trying to re-vote this. So do you think this is correct? Do you think this is right for them to do that?
Sign Holder: I don’t believe this is right. It’s not right for people on the street. People on the streets do need help, and it’s very interesting that you brought that up because I did go to Skid Row a while back — probably like 2 weeks ago — and I saw people there were on the streets that really wanna get out of it! This one guy in particular, John Johnson, he’s been telling us that he wants to go out of the streets, he wants to be healthy from his drug addiction, he’s pushing for it. You know what he did? He went to rehab! It was such an amazing —
Theo: But let me point something out too. You know, he goes to rehab, but there’s no housing. Now, he’s sober but still living on the street. That’s some of the things people say, when people get off drugs, that’s just one component of it. If you don’t have any housing or support for them, that’s just one piece of it. Let me ask you something, too, there’s a lot of working class families right here. First-generation people who came here for a better life. They came and they worked here in the restaurants, a lot of them are my friends over in Chinatown. Like Zen Mei Bistro, this mother works and owns the restaurant, and she employs her husband because he couldn’t find a job. COVID-19 has prevented them from paying rent. So it’s a larger issue. When the rent forgiveness, or whenever the landlords demand their rent and they can’t pay the rent, what do you think is gonna happen? They’re going to evict them. And when they evict them, they don’t have any place for them to be, because they’re working class people. So where are they gonna go? On the street! When they get on the street, now that when we get this amendment 41.18 that Nury Martinez is pushing, what do you think they’re gonna do? Where are they gonna go? If Unhoused people can’t be near a shelter that only holds 20 or 50 people, and there’s almost 70–80,000 Unhoused people out here. Where are they gonna go?
Sign Holder: They’re gonna go out on the street, they have nowhere else to go! We do need to help them right now. I know there are people who have money right now, they’re getting a lot of assistance for unemployment benefits, getting lots of money from [inaudible]. But the pandemic, if they’re getting assistance for it, then why can’t we help the people on the street too?
Theo: That’s my point! My heart goes out to the ones whose unemployed benefits are dying off, or they have medical issues. There are a lot of disabled people out here. That’s just one slice of Unhoused people. And now we have a higher rate of elderly Unhoused people. We can’t tell them to get a job! We can’t tell them to get off drugs, they’re not on drugs! They’re elderly, people my grandma’s age have health issues or dementia, we can’t tell them to get a job! We have to find ways to get them housing, and the City is deplorable at trying to solve the problem., They always want to do criminalization, police, law and order. That’s what Mike Feuer, who makes $200,000 and sits in his house, and has no thought about any kind of suffering and wouldn’t know the first thing to do if life hit him hard. Do you have any other ideas or thoughts on this?
Sign Holder: I just want more attention being focused for housing, for people who are living on the streets. We need attention for the people in the working class, because those are the areas that aren’t being shown on TV, even in news right. News right now is full of politics of Trump, debating on the vote, we need the actual real truth of what’s going on right now with the housing and shelter.
Theo: Thank you very much! This is Theo Henderson for We the Unhoused, and I thank you for stopping and talking with me. There’s more to follow, and I hope we again meet in the light of understanding.
THEO AT UNION STATION BALLOT PLACE
Theo: Union Station is very unique because it has a very anti-unhoused policy. Did you know that they are refusing, for example they have select seating where the Unhoused aren’t allowed to sit. You must have a traveling ticket in order for you to be able to sit in those chairs. They make it such a way, they have a blocking apparatus there [helicopter interference] in order to stop you from taking those seats, as you know Unhoused people like to sit like everyone else. But they want to create a barrier there. This is Theo Henderson for We the Unhoused, more to follow.
This is Theo Henderson for We the Unhoused. We are moving around at different voting places. We’re currently here at Union Station. And Union Station is one of the places where interestingly, it’s a place where they have a very dim view of the Unhoused community. For example, the first thing I was mentioning, many years ago, they used to have a place for Amtrak travelers to take a shower. And many Unhoused would slip through that, and they got a lot of contention because people are anti-Unhoused, so they shut that down, renovated, and created new bathrooms. The second thing that they did to get tough on the Unhoused community, is they have barricades where they’re not allowed to sit. And only unless you have a ticket. And they have security officers that come and demand that you have a ticket. And if you don’t have a ticket, then you could be banished or have the police contacted. So this is one of the issues that the Unhoused face. Interestingly enough, this ballot place here is what the first place that I went to when COVID-19 hit. When COVID-19 hit, when I was on a walker, it was shut down and there was only bathrooms, but there was a long line, it took me over a good 30, close to an hour, to hobble here from Chinatown! And here is where, this holds a lot of memories for me as being Unhoused, but also holds a lot of memories for the aggressiveness of how they deal with houselessness. So we’re gonna shoot at the next location, and we’re gonna interview a few people. So stay tuned!
Amtrak, around 2004 or 2005, used to have showers in place here. Before they renovated it, all the Unhoused, like myself, would take advantage of it, Because you didn’t have a ticket to get in, but most people, when they’re going to the bathroom, no one’s harping on them, “Do you have a ticket to take a shower?” You know, who gives a shit. So, you know, you go in and take a shower and come out, and you can keep yourself clean. But people complained! They didn’t like the Unhoused there. “How dare they get the idea of taking a shower! Or cleaning their clothes!” So they shut it down and renovated it, and that cut that off.
Miguel: A lot of the mobile showers have stopped over here.The ones that they do are at the same time as the sweeps, so it’s like they’re luring people away from their stuff.
Theo: Yeah! That’s what we’re gonna talk about! It’s funny, too, when we got here in Chinatown, there used to be a portable potty there, they took it away!
Miguel: But they were very rarely servicing it, you know the one on Cesar Chavez? Yeah, the residents living right there really didn’t like it, because it would just smell, it wasn’t cleaned, and it just became like a fucking —
Theo: They deliberately didn’t service. Because I was there, I did a toilet exposé, and they had defecation all — you know, they aren’t clean if you don’t keep ’em clean. What’s the point of having them then?
Miguel: I was just down on FIrst and Spring, they closed off all Grand Park. That section where the public restrooms were. That was a main source of restrooms for that whole encampment. There’s a port-a-potty, which isn’t always clean. Now they have to walk up the hill.
Theo: Did you know, in San Pedro they have no port-a-potties? They have one handwashing station! I walked my ass off. I was talking, I said, “Did you know — ”
[another one of Theo’s friends walks up]
Theo: Hi! You’re here for the clothing thing, too, huh?
Theo’s friend: Yeah, you here covering election stuff? Cool, I listen to a lot of your podcasts. I went to Las Vegas, I had lots of time. It’s so good, so interesting.
Theo: Thank you very much!
Theo’s friend: Did you get my e-mail?
Theo: I did! But I’ve been so busy with the election —
THEO AT STAPLES CENTER BALLOT PLACE
Theo: This is Theo Henderson for We the Unhoused. We’re here at Staples Center. If you’ve noticed, I’ve been out and about looking to get perspectives on the election. It’s too early to call who’s gonna be the victor, but I’ve heard Kentucky has resulted in another oppressive regime with Mitch McConnell being reelected, that tells you a lot about Kentucky! As well as Florida, of course we’re no more surprised, and the hostility they have against people who have care and compassion for anyone. But that’s not all of the story. Right now, we’re noticing something in this country. People have risen up, have been awakened. My earlier interview with a young lady named Kathy who expressed that she was not really plugged into the election of President Obama. But this election here has promoted her, or got her, out of her doldrums and is encouraging Generation Z to go out and vote and take part and plug in. Here at We the Unhoused I am fulfilling the same thing. Though I did vote for President Obama, the problem is that I’m trying to plug in the Unhoused community that their voice matters. And it’s germaine to this because on local elections, right now we have Nithya Rama going against David Ryu. We have other propositions, and we have our City Council members, like Joe Buscaino, and Mike Feuer, most of them making over $100,000 that believe criminalization is the answer. They believe in terrorizing over 60,000 Unhoused people because they helped out maybe 100 Unhoused people in the shelters. So, follow me into what the Black Lives Matter youth that are the vanguard is trying to show and express themselves in a youthful way.
STAPLES CENTER SIGN HOLDER: Tacos or hotdogs? 2020!
Theo: Oh I see! I’m actually the worst one, I like both!
STAPLES CENTER SIGN HOLDER: That’s ok, this is America!
Theo: Yeah, thank you!
STAPLES CENTER SIGN HOLDER: Do you wanna vote for one?
Theo: I’ll vote for both!
[audio cuts out]
Theo: Of course they’re voting to eject Jackie Lacey, which is not a surprise. I have a suspicion that this might be the time where she gets her walking papers. But here is a pulpit, that Black Lives Matter has been at the forefront of change. And it’s not just only for Black Lives Matter, but for everyone to get ok during this tumultuous time. So this is Theo Henderson for We the Unhoused. Stay tuned, and thank you all for listening, and I hope you guys are safe and that we again meet in the light of understanding.
Theo: This marks the end of the episode. I have returned back to Hollywood because of the voting ballot box here, and I’m going to show the process to show that I voted and that my, as We the Unhoused, Unhoused voters matter. This envelope’s so big!