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Los Angeles' Homeless Problem Photobombs Silver Lake Instagram Hotspot

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Photo courtesy of Rich Michalowski/Facebook
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Since it went up in September, Dallas Clayton's mural outside Dangerbird Records has caught the attention of Sunset Junction passers-by in search of the perfect Instagram.

The mural's sentimental phrase "Stand here and think about someone you love!" takes on a much darker tone, however, in a photo captured by Rich Michalowski this Sunday. Michalowski was able to catch a shot of a woman posing while a homeless man dozes off behind her (just out of frame, we imagine).

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it doesn't always tell the full story (compare this to this). So we asked photographer Rich Michalowski to describe the scene for LAist, "I saw the photographer giving the woman in the picture directions on how to stand. It was still early enough on Sunday that I was able to not block that much traffic and take a few shots. They were at it for sometime and at one point she was directed to move closer to the homeless man."

In the days since Michalowski shared it, the photo has become a metaphor for the city's approach to homelessness. The city certainly hasn't shown a lot of love for the homeless' growing ranks. In the late aughts, the city criminalized homelessness and pushed the people living on the streets of downtown aside to make room for the development that flourishes today. More recently, the city has taken away some of the tiny houses created for the homeless instead of creating affordable housing. NIMBYs have complained when programs to feed the homeless set up shop in their hoods (though activists pushed back).

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Clayton, a local artist, weighed in on the photo on Instagram:

While I wish my mural had gotten to make its rounds on a more positive note, I'm glad that this photo is stirring a dialogue and hopefully enlightening some minds. Homelessness is a systemic issue that very few organizations and governing bodies seem to have a good handle on developing a holistic solution to. It's unfortunate that we live in a world, country, state, and city with so many resources and so much potential for progress, yet we still allow people to go without basic needs such as food and shelter. I appreciate that this photo is shining a light on the disparity between the haves and the have nots, but honestly if it takes this photograph for you to realize that this disparity exists I don't imagine you've been paying attention to society as a whole for the past fifty or sixty years. Issues like prison overcrowding, inadequate mental health care and drug policies, lack of support for veterans, and the ever-widening class gap are all just parts of this picture. I wish I had solutions to these issues. I wish we structured changes based around countries that were seeing success in lowering their homeless populations. I also wish that the woman in this photo had connected more with the intention of the mural itself, which was to offer a moment of pause to reflect on what it means to love someone else, to create empathy and bring us closer together as a people. So in the spirit of thinking about those we love, instead of talking about this woman and her (hopefully momentary) ineptitude can we instead focus on well-researched links to local organizations who are offering their best efforts to fight the uphill battle to help end homelessness in Los Angeles and worldwide. I'll be posting new prints this week, and donating 100% of the proceeds to whichever homeless organization you guys think would benefit the most. It's not a solution by any means but hopefully a step.

If you look at the photo and feel a pang of guilt along with your outrage, consider donating or volunteering for your time to the Lamp Community, Homeless Health Care Los Angeles or the Los Angeles Mission on a day that isn't Thanksgiving.

You could also call up your local city council rep and ask them to commit more resources to getting Angelenos off the streets.

Related:
Ending Homelessness In L.A. Will Cost At Least Nearly $2 Billion, City Report Says
LAPD Officer Calls Skid Row An 'Outdoor Asylum Without Walls'
The Problem With Volunteering On Skid Row On Thanksgiving
City Seizes Tiny Houses Built For The Homeless