The LA Homeless and the Cops That Arrest Them

By Faktorovich, Anna | Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

The LA Homeless and the Cops That Arrest Them


Faktorovich, Anna, Pennsylvania Literary Journal


The LA Homeless and the Cops That Arrest Them Forrest Stuart. Down, Out & Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life in Skid Row. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. ISBN: 9780-226-37081-1. Sociology. Cloth. 333pp.

Thousands of people move to Los Angeles every year hoping to make it big in the film industry. Meanwhile, only a few hundred actors and as many writers, directors etc. "make it" and obtain the coveted jobs. While many leave LA after a failure, or find work as waiters, cleaners and the like, those who cannot leave nor find any work are likely to become homeless. In 2015, there were 44,359 homeless people in Los Angeles County and only 13,341 of them were sheltered, with the rest living in the streets mostly without any welfare benefits. These numbers are only comparable to New York City's homeless population of 75,323, which LA surpassed back in 2005, when NYC's rate was half its current total and LA's was 1/3 higher. The downtown area that houses the biggest shelters in LA is called Skid Row, and this region was the focus of this study.

Forrest Stuart did not simply evaluate the demographics of this population, but rather focused on how they are treated by police. Even if Stuart set out to study something else, he explains that he was stopped by police fourteen times just for standing around and investigating this crisis in his first year, and thus had to admit that harassment by police was a major concern for the homeless and had to become a concern for his readers. He explains that sitting on the sidewalk is an arrestable offense in LA for which week-long jail sentences are common, as he cites the case of Juliette, who was arrested nearly sixty times on these grounds.

Stuart personalizes many other stories of Skid Row residents, focusing on the fluidity between living in the street, in the shelters or in the cheap, trashy SRO hotels. Another one of these residents is the ever-smiling Darryl that had to move into this area after he lost a parttime job that supplemented his veteran general relief check of $221. On top of his daily struggles to find cans or otherwise scavenge for food and items to trade, Darryl was repeatedly harassed by police that forced him to take Union Rescue Mission's twenty-one-day residential rehabilitation program, which consisted of job counseling and bible classes to cancel the fines they were levying on him. Darryl described that the problems with early lights-out caused his PTSD to amplify as he couldn't sleep and had panic attacks. He also could not leave the facility for more than four hours, so that he could no longer engage in his recycling work. The classes included drug counseling and random drug testing. …

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