Los Angeles: capital of glitz and homelessness
It is a tale of two cities. Los Angeles is known for Hollywood and glamorous celebrities, but it is also a city where many live in poverty and suffer from hunger.
Even if Southern California is home to several billionaires, the poverty rate in LA County is among the highest in the nation and the unemployment rate remains in the double digits, making Los Angeles the capital of glitz and homelessness.
From exotic cars to extravagant fashion, the rich and famous give Los Angeles a reputation of opulent prosperity, but just around the corner from this glamour is the Los Angeles of utter despair.
On Skid Row the homeless live in third world conditions and things they say are only getting worse.
“They feel like there is no hope for them. They’re afraid of the police,” said Mary Czrepuszko, a homeless Los Angeles resident.
Los Angeles remains the homeless capital of the US with more than 51-thousand people living in shelters, cars or in homeless encampments.
“Staying in a shelter, getting bit every day. Having scars and scratching, it’s really bad. I would rather just be on the street,” said Czrepuszko, who became homeless after losing her job as a nursing assistant.
While Mary Czrepuszko and her neighbors sleep on tattered blankets, just a short drive away are some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in America.
In this city of extremes, the celebrities and the super-rich enjoy pampered living on palatial, hillside mansions. Huge houses in exclusive neighborhoods give Los Angeles an image of glitz and glamour. Behind high security fences lay multi-million dollar homes with luxuries like Olympic size pools and a staff of maids.
The wealthiest rest safely behind their elegant walls, while some of the city’s poorest face another long night next to a warehouse wall.
A lavish mansion costing more than $50 million in Beverly Hills is unthinkable for most people in a city where 1 in 5 children live in poverty.
“It was 2 in the morning and me and my kids were sleeping on the bus stop. That was the first time we ever had to sleep on the bus stop,” said Antoine Hudspedth, a Los Angeles homeless resident.
After the real estate crash, Hudspeth lost his job as a mortgage loan officer and became disabled. Now he struggles to feed his wife and their three sets of twins.
“I don’t want to see them sleeping on the streets. I can’t have that,” said Hudspeth.
While Hudspeth and his family line-up for a sandwich, Los Angeles’ wealthy dine in pricey gourmet restaurants and inside the massive dining rooms of their sprawling estates
The startling gap between the haves and have-nots is seen in the growing number of families who cannot afford food and housing.
“We’ve had families who have stayed with us for over two years. Yes, that’s sad, but we’re still trying our best to give them the best we can give them and connect them with resources,” said Kitty Davis Walker from Union Rescue Mission Los Angeles.
As financial austerity looms, those resources are shrinking.
It will be those in lines for the soup kitchens, not the grass fed beef and organic arugula, who will feel the pinch of California’s belt tightening.
In this economic crisis, the rich in Los Angeles flaunt their high end lifestyle, while more families fall into poverty, making it likely the city will remain a place of fame and fortune but also of great financial anguish.