On April 11, 2013, the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) released The Dirty Divide, a participatory research project that highlights the continued lack of public health infrastructure for poor residents residing in Downtown Los Angeles – with a particular focus on trash services and restrooms.
Four years later, Skid Row Community Improvement Coalition in conjunction with Inner City Law Center, released an independent report last summer revealing only nine public toilets available for 1,777 unsheltered homeless people. Since the findings, these groups have met regularly in partnership with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office and District 14 City Councilmember Jose Huizar resulting in the first ever Skid Row Community Refresh Center, aka Refresh Spot, complete with bathrooms, showers, and laundry.
ReFresh Spot will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week with security around the clock with funding to allow the facility to be operational until June 30, 2018. The temporary hygiene center is funded by money from the city and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Last month, Councilmember José Huizar introduced a motion in partnership with Garcetti to secure nearly $1.87 million in funding to establish the center and not a week later, the facility was opened.
On Monday, December 4th, crowds gathered to hear from a star-studded cast of City Hall members including Mayor Garcetti, and Council Members Jose Huizar and Curren Price, while they handed out City Certificates of Recognition to the community members including members from LA CAN responsible for helping to bring Refresh Spot into reality.
Amidst a crowd of onlookers, media, community activist and certificate recipients, LA CAN member General Dogon took the opportunity while accepting his certificate to address the Mayor with a surprise statement that began with repositioning the podium microphone and half-heartedly thanking the Mayor beginning with, “I feel as though we should be giving this award to the Mayor, cuz he’s the one who brought the toilets down here”, only to switch his tone while ripping the certificate to shreds, staring down the Mayor and other city officials, and saying quote “but you know what? This award is just like the Mayor and his cronies…it’s worthless.”
Explaining to a gasping crowd, most with jaws wide open, “This award is 10 years too late and 300 toilets too short.” As heads began to hang, all smiles turned to frowns, and some began cheering him on, Dogon then took to Councilmember Jose Huizar blaming Huizar for “criminalizing Skid Row” and saying he could not accept the award. Dogon in a finale pulled out a hard copy of what he claimed was “laid out” in The Dirty Divide and called for its recommendations to be honored before sharing his thoughts one last time about Refresh Spot, “It’s a start but like I said, we need 300 more toilets”. Dogon then threw the torn certificate to the ground and walked away. Ouch.