Life On Skid Row

By Jessica Golich

Imagine for a mere moment that you were faced with a string of tough luck and the excruciating experience of being homeless with nowhere to turn and nothing but misapplied time to burn. It’s 2:00pm on a Wednesday afternoon and I am struck by sensations of sympathy and an even greater prevalence of uncalculating disarray toward societies magnetization of extreme poverty pertaining to what has evidently transformed into Los Angeles’ concentration camp for human beings bearing a civil war on the inside and rubbing eyeballs with less than fortunate circumstances. As elite businessman, food fanatics, Hollywood agents, greedy capitalists, NYC transplants, fitness moms, plastic nightmares and the girl next door stream on and off the subway amid glittering towers with unalloyed freedom to chose the context of their days with certainty that their home is waiting for them just as they left it, the largest number of unhoused human beings in the smallest geographic area has reached a level of depravity that has the potential to be perceived as unimaginable within the mind of a so-called hot shot who does not have any valid credentials from The School of Hard Knocks.

The 54-block area just East of Downtown Los Angeles between 3rd and 7th street and Alameda and Main street houses nearly 40,000 individuals encountering homelessness and creating encampments and humble dwellings composed of furniture made from garbage, salvage, glass bottles, recycled materials, repurposed wood, and cardboard boxes where seemingly hopeless individuals return every night after roaming the brutal streets to wrap filthy, hideous blankets around their famished bodies as they sleep sitting upwards without a sheer glimmer of safety in sight. The ruins of trashed lawn chairs are sprawled onto the pavement of a uncivilized world of it’s own as individuals ruthlessly inject heroin into their prominent veins, smoke crack and deal Schedule 1 drugs contained within diamond tooth caps from wheelchairs in plain view all day and all night amid elderly women drinking alcohol out of paper bags, neglected dogs, bacteria coated grounds, prostitutes and hoes walking down the street buck naked, sexual assault, individuals suffering bloody stab wounds, agonizingly starving children, STDs present in the urine deposited onto the street, and individuals begging to wash your windows at traffic stops. And if you have the balls and streets smarts to spend enough mindful time throughout Skid Row, you may psychologically question how an individual can watch years go by from their comfortably scaled front stoop and question your world of ostensible safety and the so-called responsibilities that you adhere to every single day.
Individuals undergoing the pangs of homelessness practically go unseen every single day as passersby akin to you and I have created the nearly subconscious notion to ignore the individual’s existence as barren requests for spare change, cheap vodka, a 40oz to freedom, a dollar bill, schedule 1 drugs or the scraps of your plate of food from an over-priced restaurant overwhelmingly fall on deaf ears and diverted eyes. Alcoholics congregate on the streets and pool their nickels and dimes for booze while the remainder of the community on the street that amplifies human suffering from the inside hangs by a thread and actively lives out the spine-chilling anxiety, detrimental despair, ruthless rage, emotionally driven blindness and tormenting pains of troubled waters. The slimy streets are packed with impoverished hearts full of stories of exile and dispassion, perilous journeys seeking sanctuary, double-dealin’ vagrants, mentally ill criminals, individuals who have undergone deep suffering in pursuit of their rights within brutal wars and straight-up fucked up junkies with heavy habits living on a shoestring with no hot water or gas and formal control on behavior almost entirely absent. As the number of individuals on the streets of the centralized area for social psychiatric services for the homeless in LA continues to rise and young volunteers from rescue missions aim to set out to deliver boxes of perishable food to every single human being in the area, Bloods and Crips gang members heartlessly rob the elderly and Skid Row residents give the cold shoulder toward naive volunteers on the receiving end of racial taunts, death threats and downright barbarous behavior. The human chaos entrenched within the streets brimming of economic disorganization and social upheaval warrants further consideration of the severity of traumatizing physical, mental, sexual and spiritual poverty seemingly within my immediate surroundings.
I challenge you to ask yourself how you can make life greater not only for yourself, but for others. Yes, you are solely one human being, but the food for thought or perhaps food for action that you have the choice to share as counsel for homeless human beings has the potential to make a lasting impact on the world. I routinely examine my reactions and ask myself if I can perceive a piece of myself within my encounters with human beings undergoing homelessness and create an awareness that that human being has to tackle demons beyond poverty each and every single day beyond the lack of awareness from his or her fellow human beings. I perceive community, edifying camaraderie and the gifting of a human being’s life experiences through the arts as means to achieve inner immorality. I create and comprehend complex, abstract questions and ideas about the differentiated aspects of being. I have worked diligently on my own self-awareness through choosing to participate in years of attending to my own psychological development in conjunction with the metabolization of my life experiences. I have created a life that is full and human through stepping out of the safety of my own inner world and preoccupations and developing a neither selfish or selfless balanced worldly perception. I am in my zone of genius when I pour my life into giving back and intrinsic goodness. I walk down Skid Row unflinchingly and ultimately step further into myself through stepping out of myself. And I perceive the humble position in which you are stripped clean of everything as an effective model to set your psyche on mindful overdrive to conquer the earth and not fucking look back. Our collective heart has hardened. Trust me, I am well aware that their are millions of phonies and wolves in sheep’s clothing playing the role of homelessness to their benefit to stray away from responsibility and any effort to accept personal accountability. But, the next time you roll your eyes, complain about your godawful life, shrug your shoulders or mouth off at what you may perceive to be the side road attraction, get the flying fuck over yourself and ask yourself how you would feel on the receiving end of the habitual lack of courtesy and respect if you were tied down by misfortune, depression and isolation.

“Don’t gain the world and lose your soul; wisdom is better than silver or gold.” – Bob Marley