An encampment of unhoused Los Angeles residents in West L.A. on Aug. 30.
(Los Angeles Times)
To the editor: As someone with more than eight years of lived experience being Black and unhoused, I was traumatized by the initial web headline for Robin Abcarian’s Nov. 10 column, which identified a specific encampment as a hotbed of bike theft.
The column was reckless and dangerous. I can’t say it any stronger than that. It was an invitation to vigilantes to descend on vulnerable people.
I have been interviewed by reporters in the past, and many wanted to know my location. I am a stabbing survivor, and you couldn’t possibly know the anxiety that question has caused me. Once a SWAT team confronted me when I was wearing a hoodie and waiting for a bus in the rain. Danger. Another time, three inebriated people assaulted me at my sleeping spot.
When the George Floyd protests swept the world, The Times apologized for its role in perpetuating harm against communities of color. I sense that the unhoused community will not receive a similar apology, but it should.
The danger to us is real and getting worse. Some members of our City Council are attempting to arm park rangers; The Times editorialized against that.
So what can be done about this? Seek out the lived experiences of unhoused people. Educate your staff on guidelines for covering unhoused communities. Let more people with lived experiences write about this issue and vet these articles.
Also, watch and share content created by and written for the unhoused community. Too often, we get white saviors offering paternalistic ideas about dealing with the unhoused. It’s time to do away with this type of storytelling and harmful reporting.
Finally, pandering to NIMBYism is dangerous, and members of the unhoused community pay the price. Never doxx the unhoused.
Theo Henderson, Los Angeles
The writer is creator of the podcast “We the Unhoused.”
(This letter to the editor was originally published on November 21, 2021 in the LA Times).