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Skid Row Wants Its Own Neighborhood Council

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A group of Skid Row activists think it's time for Skid Row to have its own neighborhood council, as it faces unique issues that do not apply to the rest of downtown Los Angeles. Jeff "General Jeff" Page, a Skid Row activist and former member of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC), is leading the campaign to establish a Skid Row Neighborhood Council. He will appear tonight at a forum hosted by the Los Angeles Poverty Department at the Skid Row History Museum & Archive with Fred Dewey, a writer and public space activist who co-founded the Neighborhood Councils Movement in 1993.

While neighborhood councils don't have governing power, they are crucial for the public to come together and discuss issues and concerns, organize projects and lobby for change from City Council. Page and other activists say that Skid Row is underrepresented in the DLANC, which it has been a part of since it was formed in 2002. Skid Row has concerns that may be minimal for other parts of downtown, but huge for Skid Row—like public restrooms, housing and social services.

In an blog on City Watch LA, Page wrote that Skid Row qualifies as a neighborhood because it has "two City-owned parks, a police station, a fire station and obviously by being a well-known area with a distinctive name and having an even more distinct characteristic—being the 'homeless capital of America.'"

He likened downtown to a glazed donut, where the shiny donut part is the rapidly gentrifying downtown, and where Skid Row is the empty hole in the center. The lack of public restrooms for the homeless to use has resulted in "a constant stench of urine and feces," he wrote. Another issue is finding housing for the homeless, and assisting residents in recovery. A recent push to turn the Cecil Hotel (now known as Stay on Main) into such housing was blocked by residents who feared that a concentrated center of services for the homeless and mentally ill would make problems in the area worse. However, blocking the Cecil Hotel from becoming SRO-housing hasn't done much to alleviate any of the problems Skid Row is currently facing. Page thinks a Neighborhood Council to work on issues specific to Skid Row would be helpful, and also inspiring to those who live there, either officially or unofficially.

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There is a newfound positive energy in Skid Row these days which breeds hope to its residents. This should be embraced and supported. With the definition of all new SRO low-income affordable housing described as PERMANENT supportive housing, the residents are all but assured that we will not be going anywhere. Therefore, it’s time for change. It’s time to see Skid Row as a community. It’s time to support the resident’s efforts to create a viable neighborhood, even with its negative detractions. It’s time to support the creation of the Skid Row Neighborhood Council.

Last summer, Page worked with a group of street artists and photographer Stephen Zeigler to create a "positive Skid Row mural" that addressed the neighborhood by its name, not the softer 'Central City East' moniker that some City offices use.

The forum will be held tonight at the Skid Row History Museum & Archive at 440 S. Broadway from 6:30 to 8 p.m.