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.
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 https://redcanarycollective.org/magazine/rise-of-the-american-favela/