I slept more comfortably last night than any other time that I had slept on the streets before that. Of course, I had never had the luxuries of an open sleeping bag and a camping mat (nor the warmth of a body next to me) any other night out on the sidewalks, either.
Yesterday was the third anniversary of Los Angeles' "Safer Cities Initiative", a program set in place by the city with the goal of "cleaning up Skid Row"(links lead to articles relating to the subject). It's a highly controversial initiative that has poured 50 more police officers (over 100, if you count undercover narcotics officers sent in to falsely arrest afflicted drug users under charges of dealing) into the 50 blocks of the Skid Row community of Downtown Los Angeles. It has led to sky-high numbers of arrests and complaints of police brutality. In the opinon of the resisdents of Skid Row, and the minds of friends of the homeless (such as the LACW and myself), it is an unfair shift in policing that has led to the ciminalization of the poorest of LA.
(The picture is from a different protest, same issue. I hope that pictures from Monday night's protest should be available soon).
The Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) held a protest that evening on the steps of the Central Division Police Station (the station that is in Skid Row) to show opposition to the SCI. Eric and I joined the LA Catholic Worker, many homeless people, and other supporters/activists (including attorney Jim Lafferty) in a rally and the following sleep-in on the sidewalk in front of the police station with banners that read things like "Still no room at the inn: LAPD stop persecuting the Homeless", "LA must repent for criminalization of the homeless", "Lofts for the rich, cells for the poor" and so on and so forth. It was a lively action with good energy.
(they also went on to protest at the city council meeting the next morning, which I missed due to kitchen duties, but you can read a blurb about it here)
For me, it was about solidarity. I have slept away from shelter before, just as voluntarily, and always with a mind on those for whom such action is not an option, but a necessity. Twice it was for a week-long "faith outreach" with the JCs and once it was a two month journey with the JCs and our moneyless friend Suelo. Those times, we started with nothing but the clothes on our backs, as a time of trusting in a God who "works things out" and as a measure of identifying with the poorer half of our global neighbors. Those times were adventures in themselves and probably need to be written about.
In the meantime, let us ponder on our treatment of the less fortunate and to remember that the system's broken; how are we going to fix it?
It's up to us.