Downtown Los Angeles is a chilling reminder of the depth and darkness of America's homelessness problem. But for Skid Row's newest generation of children, a glimmer of hope still remains. Sam Slovick walks some of the toughest streets in the country with a 12-year-old tour guide.
With one of the country's most notorious slums sitting within spitting distance of new million-dollar lofts and five-star hotels, Los Angeles is using tough new policing to clean up its worst eyesore. For the children of Skid Row, though, it's business as usual-finding shelter, trying to stay out of trouble, and most of all, getting out.Cesar Hurtado can't sit still. Eyes darting, feet tapping, knees knocking, the wiry 12-year-old is bouncing around the community room at the Union Rescue Mission shelter in downtown Los Angeles at breakneck speed, telling a joke a minute and bursting into convulsive fits of giggles until something on TV catches his eye. He plants himself down on the vinyl couch between his two little brothers, temporarily hypnotized by Bruce Willis."Hey! Let me see your phone," he says, snatching my Sidekick from my jacket pocket as his brothers look on. "You got any new games on that?" His mother, Mariann Andrade, noisily repositions herself at a nearby table, a preemptive warning to the boys to simmer down. She's exhausted. For three years now, she and her four children have been trekking from South Central to North Hollywood, between shelters, missions, and low-rent hotels, which she pays for with vouchers provided by the county. Now they share a sparsely furnished dormitory room with another family at one of Skid Row's three megashelters. "I might be going to my grandma's soon," Cesar whispers.
|It's scary. There's drugs and killing and stuff. I don't go out alone.-Cesar Hurtado, 12|
|We have made 7,500 narcotics and parolee arrests since Safer Cities was implemented.-LAPD Commander Andrew Smith|
|[People are] living like animals, right by all the…yuppies practically running them over in their Beemers and Benzes. It's America. That's how we do it.-William Menjivar|