Skid Row: How the Biggest Crack of the US Has Been for 'Deeper' Hollywood For decades

 "They crack different drugs, very different drugs," says Tonya, as she lights up the penultimate Winston Red from her wallet at the light tip of her previous cigarette.
 From age 16, she alternates moments of intensity and apathy through the streets of Skid Row, a 54-block area of ​​downtown Los Angeles, within walking distance of the local movie theaters and the Broadway skyscrapers of the city's financial center. Californian capital.
 "My sister brought me here, that was her area. She was a year older than me and gave me the first drug." It was heroine, "says the 50-year-old Mexican descendant, while arranging a dusty blanket wheelchair that he has worn since 2014, when he lost his right leg from an infection from a contaminated needle.
 At least 4,000 people divide the streets of Skid Row with Tonya - and half of them estimate NGOs from the region, use heavy drugs every day.
 Less than a half-hour drive from the Hollywood mansions and the Walk of Fame, Skid Row brings together the largest concentration of street people in the United States (cracolândia de São Paulo, for comparison purposes, gathers an average of 1860 users , according to a state government survey published in 2017).
 After years of crack predominance, heroin has become the most popular drug in the region, says Santiago, who applied a heroin syringe for the first time at age 13. There are ten, he sleeps in one of the hundreds of stalls crowding in front of carrier walls and large warehouses in the area.
 "I was abused as a child, I went to drugs to reduce pain, I'm an addict now and I need it."
He shows a syringe for the story and talks about his routine.
"There's the breakfast bite, one bite at lunch, one at dinner, and one bite at midnight. That makes me work."
'Magnet' for the most vulnerable
 At the beginning of the 20th century, Skid Row was already known for bringing together jobless, alcoholic, and unemployed workers in one of the fringes of downtown. The term (skidding road) emerged in the 17th century, associated with areas where temporary workers organized the flow of logs for the production of wood and pulp.
 Since then, degraded urban areas, whose streets have met people in precarious conditions, have become known in the US as "skid rows" - the most famous in the United States is Los Angeles, but there are other major skid rows in the country, such as of Chicago.
 In the late 1980s, the term became known internationally for naming the hair metal band led by Sebastian Bach.
 In Los Angeles, despite accelerated growth in recent years, following the epidemic of opioids (highly addictive painkillers and opium derivatives including heroin) spreading across the US, Skid Row gained its main thrust four decades ago.
 In 1976, the Los Angeles City Council launched an urban plan that later became known as a "containment policy." The city's strategy consisted in concentrating all the shelters, popular meals, rehabilitation NGOs and services for the unemployed, without housing and mental health problems in a single place in the city.
 The Skid Row area would act as a magnet for the city's street population, who would find basic services just there - leaving the other city areas to the middle-class and wealthy population.
 The result, experts say, was a perverse vicious cycle: with the most vulnerable population on the streets, hostels and small hotels in the region, drug supply grew much faster than jobs or health services.
Thus, the consumption of heavy substances and the population of the area exploded - overloading the NGOs and public agencies that settled in the region with the premise of containing it.
'I and you divided by a circumstance'
 "No one has ever dreamed of being homeless, this is not no one's dream." The people who are living on the streets are us, it's not us and they, there's only us, it's you and me - divided by some circumstance, " says Georgia Berkovich, director of Midnight Mission, a joint shelter and recovery clinic that has existed for over 100 years.
Whoever sees her in red tailleur, heavy makeup and brushed hair walking hastily from one meeting to another in one of the mansions in the area can question her knowledge of the cause.
 She explains it herself. "I was a lonely child raised by a single mother, so I started drinking very young, going crazy," she says, looking down from the NGO terrace, a group selling cigarette lighters and crackers in a nearby corner.
 "What happened to me happens to a lot of people too, but since I'm an alcoholic, that brought me at age 24 to crack."
 In 2018, she turns 25 sober. "Which is great, at least for a girl like me," she says.


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