The “On the Streets” web series explored the reality of homelessness in Southern California. Journalist and filmmaker Lisa Biagiotti tackled this complex issue by putting faces to the statistics.
She started by following The Times’ homeless data map, and set out to have conversations with people who do not have homes. Along the way, she gained input and insights from Angelenos.
The series concept was to build a dynamic documentary scene-by-scene with our audience. You can watch the full 72-minute narrative documentary here.
1. Skid Row: Not the last stop
Lisa Biagiotti walks through the epicenter of homelessness on Los Angeles’ skid row. She meets Khalil, who is delivering a 5-gallon bottle of water to his pregnant friend so that she can take a shower in her tent.
2. Living on Venice Boulevard
Biagiotti meets Rory, a millennial who is living with his two friends in an RV along Venice Boulevard. In L.A. County, the number of tents, makeshift communities and vehicles occupied by homeless people has jumped by 85% in two years.
3. Sycamore Grove Park: Moving out of Skid Row
A reported 13,000 fall into homelessness every month. Biagiotti meets a family living in a homeless encampment in a northeast L.A. public park.
4. Skid Row: Squeezed in on all sides
Biagiotti visits Jeff Dietrich of L.A. Catholic Worker at the “Hippie Kitchen.” They discuss the pressures of gentrification and the persistence of homelessness.
5. L.A. County Jail: One homeless woman’s hustle
Bonnie and her husband are homeless. While he is serving a 180-day sentence inside the L.A. County Jail, she moved her encampment to outside the jail along with her service dog. Bonnie sells cigarettes to incoming and outgoing inmates.
6. Young and homeless in Hollywood
Biagiotti joins homeless youth social workers with Covenant House as they canvass Hollywood for 18- to 24-year-olds. An estimated 2,000 young adults sleep on the streets of Los Angeles every night. Down alleyways and side streets, Lisa meets Kristyna, Rimecco and Ray, and learns about what it’s like to be young and homeless in Hollywood.
7. He is getting his PhD — and is homeless
More than 56,000 college students identified themselves as homeless, according to 2013-14 Federal Student Aid Form (FAFSA) data. After watching the first few episodes of the ‘On The Streets’ series, Louis Tse, a 26-year-old UCLA doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, e-mailed Lisa Biagiotti to suggest that she look into the issue of homeless youth.
Via e-mail, Louis revealed that he too was homeless and had been living in his car for more than a year. In this video, they walk through his morning routine, and talk about ‘rational homelessness’ and his post-doctorate goals.
8. Join an L.A. police officer on his skid row beat
LAPD Officer Deon Joseph takes Lisa Biagiottti on his nightly patrol of skid row, which he has walked for the last 18 years. Violent crime has escalated citywide, but on Joseph’s beat, he says robberies are up 71%, aggravated assaults by 73% and rapes by 91%. Joseph canvasses Spring to San Pedro, from 3rd to 7th streets. Along the way, he discusses addiction, mental illness and the disastrous effects of a synthetic drug called Spice. He instructs a woman on how to stay safe on the streets, and he remembers the people who have died on his watch.
9. Slab City: A haven for the homeless gentrifies
Lisa Biagiotti visits Slab City to see what the future of homelessness looks like. Off the grid, 190 miles southeast of Los Angeles, she tours this desert outpost with Phil Long, a young traveler passing through in a purple bus. She talks to ‘Stickman,’ who has settled on a concrete slab of this former military training base after 30 years on the road. At a community board meeting, she learns that Jack ‘Two Horses’ Martin has lost the resident election, and may be the first person ever evicted from Slab City because of gentrification.
10. Highland Park: Murder in the park
Biagiotti catches up with the siblings she met at Sycamore Grove Park in Highland Park. Three months have passed, and sisters Hope Torres and Patricia Villareal are now sleeping in a winter shelter. A recent murder in the park finally convinced their brother Jesus Torres to come off the streets. The siblings are trying to secure housing before the shelter closes in March, but the housing process is proving long and complicated.
11. Venice: The art of homelessness
Biagiotti meets Trek Thunder Kelly for a stroll around his “house” in Venice. Kelly is an artist who paints, sculpts and lives his art. For the last four years, he has been living “homefree” out of his van. Biagiotti first met Kelly when he committed to a micro-living project. They catch up and compare notes on homelessness, and what it’s like to live on the streets.
12. Arts District: ‘You’re my neighbor’
In the final episode of the “On the Streets” series, Biagiotti explains why she decided to explore the issue of homelessness in Los Angeles. She runs into Wanda Gray, who is on her way to the local recycling center. They meet Odell, Gray’s old friend from skid row, and talk about what’s going on in the neighborhood. Pepper, the “mayor of skid row,” imparts some street wisdom to cap the series.