Virgil Village’s Most Vulnerable Resemble Skid Row’s: They Need Testing, Shelter, Relief

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 55)

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director for the L.A. County Public Health department, noted in her meeting with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors yesterday that the stay-at-home orders for L.A. County would last for at least another three months, which sounded about right considering the prevalence of the virus throughout much of Los Angeles, particularly along class and racial lines.

In a recent article for the L.A. Times, readers can learn about the work of nurses and outreach workers in Skid Row, of downtown Los Angeles, where the public health crisis posed by COVID-19 is only exacerbated due to the sheer density of L.A.’s unhoused population within the area.

Similarly in East Hollywood, along Virgil avenue, on any given day there can be found different clusters of unhoused men, mostly but not exclusively immigrants, the vast majority of whom are struggling with addiction and who are sleeping on the avenue’s surrounding sidewalks, just a few feet away from the area’s local grocery and liquor stores. Several of these men, it’s known, used to pay rent for rooms in the area before falling on hard times or being displaced, from which they have still not recovered.

Not unlike in downtown Los Angeles, where million-dollar lofts are built for the ultra-rich in the same mile radius where people erect their tents atop dirt set aside for street-trees and freeway overpasses, Virgil Village’s most vulnerable community is similarly in need of attention, testing, and an alternative to the dirt. To paraphrase the reverend Martin Luther King Jr., if this public health crisis and L.A. County’s extension of the stay-home orders make one thing clear: it’s that a threat to a community’s health anywhere is a threat to a community’s health everywhere.

As with Skid Row, while local police officers, council-members, and other representatives may be difficult to find during the community’s outreach work for their most vulnerable, it just may be that community’s noise that can inspire these folks into visibility, if not accountability.

How would that sound for a daily neighborhood howl?


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