Stephanie Styles and Dionne Leslie

Rise of the American Favela

Stephanie Arnold Williams and her sister Dionne Leslie at the White House.

UPDATE: A lot has happened since I wrote this piece. Stephanie Styles moved inside and is rebranding her White House as a wellness center. She’s also featured in a documentary that recently premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival called the The Dirty Divide

I’ve written a lot of L.A. housing stories over the years and it’s startling that the issue is always the same, failed policy and a perpetual obsolescence. But now, with 200,000 people in the streets of Los Angeles the new, post-Covid era reality is already bad and rapidly deteriorating. If and when the city decides to embrace the endless housing “crisis” it will take a long time, a focused vision and collective effort to help everyone get inside who wants to be inside. In the meantime, some people are already engaged in creative solutions. 

Here’s my piece for Red Canary Magazine on skid row and the housing problem in Los Angeles.

FEBRUARY 15, 2022

The streets are still damp from a late-night, midwinter rain just a few blocks from Los Angeles City Hall. Skid Row, 50-square blocks of squalor, where thousands of people have been living in various states of homelessness for decades, saw just enough of a downpour to stir up some toxins and chase away the rats.

As morning breaks, the stink of wet garbage and car exhaust meld, and a city bus squeals to a halt, commencing the day’s symphony of racket. The sidewalk is already washed and swept as the unvarnished procession stirs to life. The scene is chaotic, sometimes violent, but mostly peaceful as people—some with aid of crutches, canes, wheelchairs and walkers—navigate around a woman who has overdosed on fentanyl and is lying motionless on the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, the advocates and caregivers serving the community take up their positions at storefront agencies, community centers and in the streets as loft dwellers descend from their high-end, downtown real estate.

A few dark clouds linger, but just when things are about to get gloomy, they part nicely, the sun breaks through and Stephanie Arnold Williams (a.k.a. Stephanie Styles, a.k.a. Stephanitely Styles) emerges from the White House, as she calls it—a large, white, gazebo tent that is her home.

>> Full story at – Red Canary Magazine

MacArthur Park palm frond house – photo by Luigi Ventura

H4H Covid relief worker Adam Rice (r) and client Larry Gibson – photo by Luigi Ventura

Stephanie Styles at the White House Community Center in skid row – photo by Luigi Ventura

In this video, I take a deep dive into American Favela, the new landscape of homelessness in Los Angeles where the streets look more like a developing nation than L.A. I met Stephanie a few years ago and started live streaming her. Her community center has expanded from a couple tents to a big distribution operation. She, H4H Covid response worker Adam Rice and his client Larry Gibson open a window to the street.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.