“You should not have to pay to live on this Earth”

Stephanie Williams lives in a tent encampment on Skid Row. Many occupants of her encampment are women. She vows to stay in the community even if they put her in jail, which they have done.
PHOTO/CHRIS VENN

 

LOS ANGELES, CA —The encampment on Skid Row where Stephanie Williams resides is at a major intersection next to a Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) building. When you arrive at the encampment you immediately feel like you’re in a neighborhood. It is a very busy intersection with a lot of foot traffic and tents tightly lined up to the right of the sidewalk. Many of the tent occupants are women. Stephanie’s tent is in the middle of these tents and has a plastic Jacuzzi next to it with a cover. When the weather is warm enough, children from a nearby shelter will come and play in the water. On the other side of her tent is a large table with chairs. This is where the community has weekly discussions on Saturdays

Stephanie says, “We organize weekly discussions. They are free for everyone. Our subjects have been about cops when they were killing. I’m upset that they got away with another murder (Stephanie is referring I to Charley Keunang “Brother Africa’s” murder on March 1, 2015.) The police have pushed me down and I tell them, ‘don’t shoot me!’ At our discussions, we also talk about people being thrown out of their SRO’s because of caps on occupancy. I stay out here with this community. I’m going to stay out here no matter what happens. They’ve even put me in jail for staying out on the street. I buy tents and give them out. If the police confiscate the tents I just buy more tents.

This is life on Skid Row. If we’re confronted, we videotape the confrontation. There is no violence on this corner.

This past year we’ve seen many more kids on Skid Row. I’ve never seen this number of homeless before. And I also see a lot of old homeless. I just put out a swimming pool and the kids love to come and play in the water.

They have street cleaning on this street but they hide the signs so you don’t know when they’re (city sanitation vehicles) arriving. Then they force us to put our tents down at 6:00 am. We filed a restraining order against them to prevent this activity.

Skid Row is a good place to live. You get rid of your payments. You give up your house. My sons can’t make it as they work so hard at their jobs and are barely able to survive. I tell them to come and join me at this encampment. They took all my property over a year ago. I don’t think you should have to pay to live on this earth. They’re not going to tell us to pay for our energy. The energy from the sun on this earth is free.

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