From “The American Dream,” to the Inferno can be a very small step. In Los Angeles you just have to cross one street for it, Mainstreet. In the shadow of L.A.’s postmodern business-core it’s hard to believe your own eyes. Skid Row, an area that covers 10 square blocks, hides no less than 15000 homeless people. It is the largest concentration of homelesness in the country. The “lucky ones” can afford a cheap room in one of the dodgy hotels around Skid Row. Others stay in the missions. Here, lost souls get free food, medical aid and mental support in their struggle against drug or alcohol-addictions. At least ten missions try to swallow the enormous influx of homeless people. But it´s David fighting Goliath. Thousands of men, women and children are exposed to the dark reality of the street.
Skid Row has been in the making for years. In the “Grapes of Wrath,” John Steinbeck already talks about traveling contracters and their misery. A lot of them winded up in what is called dependency zones because of the many shelters and missions. Alcohol and violence were part of everyday life. Now , these dependency zones still exsist. Crack and heroine have changed the profile of the homeless. Still, not everybody has an addiction in these streets of hell. Sharpening social polarization, record levels of poverty and manyfacturing decay make the problem more complex. About twenty percent of the homeless have a job. Families with children are the fastest growing segment amongst homeless people. It´s no miracle that Los Angeles is refered to as the first third world city in the USA.