I was homeless in Salt Lake City. But nothing prepared me for what I saw in Los Angeles’ Koreatown.

“ This Story or Blog Item you are about to read is being played out in every major city in this country. This crisis is being played out right in front of our eyes for each and every citizen in the United States. But to everyone’s dilemma no one wants to reflect on the crisis and as the prison system has become a major crisis for people of color so has homelessness. It’s not only grown citizens but our children have been caught up in this crisis as well. Almost 40% of the numbers being quoted in this article are children. HOMELESS CHILDREN

Jesus said “bring the little children unto me” where are our christian values(those right to lifers: Those children you are forcing women to have are hungry and homeless???

Resting inside one of the stone entryways of St. James Episcopal Church on St. Andrews Place, Josh Law heard a drunken man’s slurred speech and then the sound of an opening zipper. In 16 months of homelessness, Law had learned to sleep in an altered state of hypervigilance. He grabbed his makeshift bed of clothes and blankets—and dodged the stream of urine.

Sixteen long months of hell, Law says. Sixteen months of adjusting his nightly agenda to the event schedule of the church so that he wouldn’t block a doorway with his bed. Sometimes he stretched out at 8 p.m.; sometimes he waited until 10 p.m. He always made sure he was up at 4 a.m., before the garbage truck drivers passed. “I didn’t want people to see me and think: ‘Oh, what a lazy homeless bum,’ ” Law said.

But the number of homeless people in this country is steadily increasing; there are far too many for literal—or figurative—invisibility. The statistics extend gloomily from there. Advocates who work with the homeless estimate there are at least 2 million unhoused people in the United States. Between 2018 and 2019, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s count, the homeless population in the city of Los Angeles increased by 16 percent—bringing the estimated homeless population to 36,165, at least 27,200 of whom were living on the streets. Koreatown, a neighborhood that takes up just 2.7 square miles, contains nearly 600 unhoused residents.

Here, in Koreatown, while locals have protested the building of a homeless shelter, forcing the project to relocate half a mile away, the homeless live on sidewalks, in alleyways, parks—and anyplace else they can find. Dilapidated tents bound together with rope create strange formations amid the city’s mix of modern and Art Deco architecture. They awkwardly jut from the sidewalks like poorly crafted spaceships.

“No one would give me a lease where I was paying nearly 80 percent of my income toward rent.” — Josh Law

President Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested that he might try to implement some kind of police crackdown in California to clear its streets. And on Christmas Day, he tweeted that Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, was doing a “bad job” with “taking care of the homeless population in California.” “If he can’t fix the problem, the Federal Govt. will get involved!” the president wrote.

In November, I traveled to Los Angeles from Salt Lake City, where I had lived on the streets between 2014 and 2016. Salt Lake has relatively few homeless inhabitants compared with other major American cities. Even as some outlets have disputed this specific claim and I regularly see homeless people sleeping in tents on the sidewalks where I was once homeless, Salt Lake has been held up as a national symbol of a city that has “all but ended chronic homelessness.”

While I did not know what I would see or learn in my five days in L.A., I know how traumatizing it is to be homeless. And I wanted to witness how people—housed as well as unhoused—cope with this issue on such a devastating scale.

As night falls, Josh Law, 42, claims his usual sleeping spot in an entryway at St. James Episcopal Church in Koreatown on Nov. 9.

Julie Pena

I met Law on a Saturday afternoon, in the parking lot of St. James Church, where he had just finished taking a shower inside a mobile shower van offered by Shower of Hope, a nonprofit organization that serves the homeless population in Los Angeles. Once a construction worker who says he made up to $50 an hour, Law lost his housing after being severely injured on the job—he fell and suffered a compound fracture to his tibia, he says, pulling his pants leg up to show a deep scar from surgery. The $1,347 a month he says he got from disability was nowhere near enough to cover the cost of an apartment, not even a studio, which averages $1,000 to $1,300 a month in Los Angeles. “No one would give me a lease where I was paying nearly 80 percent of my income toward rent,” Law said.

The 42-year-old hasn’t told his relatives back in Kentucky that he’s homeless, even though he says they have the means to help him out financially. A man has got to have his pride, Law says. When his daughter came to visit, he said, “I rented an Airbnb for four days so she would think I was housed.” These past 16 months have culminated, Law says, in six painful ulcers.

Law tells me he is paying for his food—“I refuse to go on food stamps,” he said—cellphone bill, storage unit, and other necessities by selling his plasma and by buying shirts at Goodwill stores and then reselling them. Yes, it’s a demanding, hardscrabble life. But the biggest stressor of being homeless, Law said, is “other people’s views of me.”

Despite the widespread myth that homeless people flock to Los Angeles to bask in the sunshine, most of the unhoused are people who have been living in the area for many years, according to a 2018 report from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Sixty-five percent of the homeless people in Los Angeles County have lived there for at least two decades, and three-quarters have lived in the county for at least 10 years. “Many of them are living in tents across the street from the apartments from which they have been evicted,” said homeless advocate Jane Nguyen.

“Yesterday, I was riding my bike to work and I saw a man take his last breath and die.” — Johnny Lee

Walking into a Subway shop in Koreatown, I was overcome not only by the homeless man looking directly into my eyes as he sits on a patch of pavement outside, but by the in-your-face smell of urine emanating from the doorway. “Ma’am, do you have any money so I can get a warm meal?” Suddenly, there is an agenda to tend to. Which shall it be? Mine—or his?

Even as a formerly homeless woman myself, I feel unsure how to cope with the flurry of emotions this request brings. I know what it’s like to lose everything and fall to the lowest rungs of society, a place so stigmatized that people keep a careful distance, rarely stepping close enough to ask how you are doing or what you might need. Yet two and a half years into my emergence, I sometimes freeze in survival mode, forgetting that I can spare a dime, or at the very least a smile. And so I walked guiltily past the man, without interacting with him. Like everyone else, I’m coping with the reality of living in a world where the need for self-preservation is as great as the need to help those in need.

In November, I talked with Johnny Lee, who owns a pizza restaurant in Koreatown: “Yesterday, I was riding my bike to work and I saw a man take his last breath and die. He was homeless.” Lee, 36, is also the co-founder of Koreatown for All, a small group of Los Angeles residents who have banded together to watch over their unhoused neighbors. In L.A., the death of the unhoused is becoming commonplace: An average of three homeless people die every day in Los Angeles County, according to a 2019 report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The dying man Lee saw lay some 50 feet away from a Starbucks, next to a high rise filled with pricey condominiums, Lee said. Another man was pumping the homeless man’s chest with the palm of his hand. Lee saw a passerby, a man who looked like he was in his 30s, shake his head. He recalls hearing him say to no one in particular, “Oh, another dead guy.”

It was the oddest thing, says Lee. Everyone was doing their daily thing on that bright blue November morning: buying their juice, drinking their lattes, heading to work. “And all I could think was: ‘I just watched someone leave this earth,’ ” Lee said.

Continued on further, “but I must remind the readers of this article that what is being witnessed and read is real. Travel around your city or town and you will find them or just open your eyes some days as you traverse to work or play”

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