Ted Hayes Conducts Downtown Tour In Preperation for Homeless Convention
Ted Hayes, founder of the Dome Village transitional housing center, led members of the mainstream and alternative media on a tour of Los Angeles' Skid Row yesterday. Amid a flurry of clicking cameras, the veteran homeless activist escorted members of the press through the poverty-afflicted downtown area on Sunday in an effort to decry economic disparities between rich and poor.
This is an inequality that has become most evident on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, say activists. Carrying the American Flag as he familiarly conversed with the area's homeless residents, Hayes emphasized to reporters that despite popular impressions of general prosperity, Third World conditions exist in America. "This is not Columbia, this the United States," Hayes asserted. Squalid cardboard box shelters, trash-littered sidewalks and the hundreds of resourceless Angelenos contrast starkly with the display of wealth taking place only a mile away at the Staples Center, where the DNC is being held. The progression of the problem is astounding to many: according to Shelter Partnership, Inc., up to 84,000 people are homeless on any given night in L.A. County, making it, as Hayes puts it, "the homeless capital of the Western world."
Such figures are by no means limited to Los Angeles, however; studies suggest that over 700,000 people are currently homeless in the U.S., that approximately 12 million adult U.S. residents have been homeless at some point in their lives, and that there has been a doubling or tripling of homeless numbers in the past two decades. Over a third of the national homeless population consists of families. Significantly, 21% of homeless persons are employed, suggesting that the problem is not simply poverty, but a dearth of affordable housing.
It is the failure of the institutional safety net and charitable organizations to contain poverty that Hayes seeks to call attention to, by hosting a National Homeless Convention at his site during the following four days. Delegates of the convention from across the nation will be gathering beginning today at Dome Village to report upon the homelessness problem in their individual communities. In addition, the delegates will be camping out at the site with few comforts, as a gesture of sympathy with America's most disempowered community. The organizers ultimately hope for an executive order to implement a National Homeless Plan, following the formation of a national committee charged with the creative development of such a plan.
One great impediment to these efforts is that they have not received much attention in the mainstream press. Neither have the homeless themselves, according to Hayes, who claims to be cognizant of the dangers of becoming a "poverty pimp": a term for one who exploits the condition of the poor for personal gain. The danger seems real. Out of the half dozen mainstream reporters accompanying Hayes on the tour, all but one were photographers, a reminder that too many efforts to publicize the community's affliction result in no more than a convenient photo-op.