The morning of this interview, Rita text me, “Hey, good morning. So we got ticketed the day before yesterday and told that we have a week before they come and bulldoze everyone… Stay at home? They do not care. LAPD is out in mass today.”
Rita lives in a tent homeless in Chatsworth, a suburban neighborhood in the City of Los Angeles, California, in the San Fernando Valley. Back in May, I interviewed Rita. You can watch that video here. Interestingly, the morning of that interview the Los Angeles Police Department was attempting to sweep the homeless encampment, which is something they do on a regular basis. Sweep is a term used to describe the ongoing criminalization of homeless people.
I first connected with Rita when I learned she was running to be elected for the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council. Like most suburban neighborhoods, Chatsworth is not very friendly to homeless people. It takes a lot of guts for a homeless person to run for any office. Rita may have won, however, the pandemic has changed everything.
Rita and I start off talking about the lack of affordable housing. One thing LA does good is to build luxury housing. There are new buildings everywhere each time I visit. Most Los Angeles luxury apartments sit vacant with no one in them. I am not a conspiracy theory person, but recently Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar was arrested by the FBI and indicted on charges that stem from shady dealings with developers. For years, Los Angeles politicians went for the money instead of investing in affordable housing, and that’s why LA’s homeless crisis has continued to grow.
As many of you know, Invisible People does not edit these interview videos. When we started, I was not able to edit them, and now it’s become part of our protocol to guarantee the integrity of each homeless person’s story. In the middle of this video, Rita spotted someone at her camp and left to go see what was going on. I was not sure what to do. I left the recording going. In hindsight, I should have walked with her, but I didn’t know what was going on and if that was safe for Rita and myself. Cameras change things. I could edit it out, or fast forward the segment, but then that would be editing, so I left it as is. Rita came back and we finished the interview.
Although this pause in the interview wasn’t intentional, it does give some insight into what it must be like for a woman to live in a tent homeless. Rita is tough, and she is smart. This time it was OK. Next time it may not be. This is where you come in.
Your voice can help end homelessness. If we do not fix the affordable housing crisis, homelessness will continue to get worse. Click here to tweet, email, call, or Facebook your federal and state legislators to tell them ending homelessness and creating more affordable housing is a priority to you.