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ACLU Wins – Keeps Homeless On Streets

A weird story on so many levels.

From the DNC's Associated Press:

Volunteers pass containers with clean warm water, as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa washes the feet of Richard Ramirez, whose family is currently homeless, at the Union Rescue Mission in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles on Good Friday, April 14, 2006. The modern foot-washing ceremony is symbolic of the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples shortly before he was crucified. Today the homeless received new shoes after the foot-washing.

Thousands Enjoy Easter Respite on Skid Row

By JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press Writer Sat Apr 15, 7:01 AM ET

LOS ANGELES – Just about the last thing Richard Ramirez expected when he ducked in out of the rain for an early Easter dinner and a new pair of shoes was to have his feet washed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

"No, I didn't expect that all," laughed Ramirez as he prepared to head back into the rain that was pelting Skid Row, driving thousands of its homeless into doorways and under awnings up and down its gritty streets.

The brief respite Friday was provided by the Los Angeles Mission's annual Easter holiday dinner, in which celebrities and corporate executives stood side-by-side with mission volunteers dishing up baked ham and trimmings, sodas and pumpkin pie to some 3,000 homeless men, women and children.

"Keep up the good work and God bless you," Ramirez told Villaraigosa, who gave him a thumbs up.

The holiday ritual not only symbolizes the Biblical story of Jesus washing his disciples' feet, but also gives shelter personnel a chance to check for disease and recommend people for treatment, said Marshall McNott, the mission's president.

Homelessness has been a long-standing concern in Los Angeles County, where more than 82,000 were homeless on any given night in 2005, including about 48,000 within Los Angeles' city limits, according to survey by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. It is of particular concern on Skid Row, a ramshackle area downtown.

This year's dinner came as homeless advocates cheered a Friday federal appeals court decision that said the city cannot arrest homeless people for sleeping on the sidewalks until it provides enough beds for thousands who lack shelter each night. The city had been using an ordinance banning sleeping, lying or sitting on public sidewalks to deal with the homeless.

In a 2-1 majority, the panel said the ordinance violates the Constitution's Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment, prohibiting the city from punishing people for breaking the law when they have nowhere else to go.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California had sued in February 2003. A federal judge had dismissed the case, prompting the appeal. It was unclear whether the city would appeal the ruling.

Over in the Los Angeles Mission's sprawling dining hall, actor-director Forest Whitaker and other celebrities were dishing up meals as fast as they could.

Whitaker was accompanied by his wife and three daughters, ages 7, 9 and 14.

"They're growing up in an environment so different than what I grew up in," said Whitaker, shaking his head. "I think they're beginning to see how blessed they are. They'll be coming back from now on, I think."

Enjoying their efforts were Damien and Vickie Gonzalez, their 10-year-old son, James, and 7-year-old daughter, Britney. The family, once homeless, now lives in a modest Skid Row hotel.

"Lack of money," Vickie Gonzalez said when asked what put them on the streets. She and her husband sell candy and socks on downtown corners.

It was cocaine addiction that led him to jail and then Skid Row, said Vincent Fuller, a former truck driver who added he's been drug-free for three months and is trying to prove he's worthy of returning to a single occupancy hotel like the one he was booted out of for using drugs.

"I know this is not me," Fuller said as he lingered over a soda. "I know I can get back to what I was doing."

Of course the ACLU want as many homeless on the streets as possible, so they can point to them and decry America's callous injustice.

It was ever thus.

But who does Villaraigosa think he is?

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, April 15th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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