Skid Row
11 Images

Children on skid row

Kevin Cedano, 13, who has grown up on L.A.'s skid row, walks on the roof of the Ohio Hotel, where he lives with his parents and three sisters. The area is a desert for most children, with few accessible parks or diversions other than the street. Kevin has struggled with staying in school, not for lack of good grades but because many public schools are reluctant to admit students from what they see as a troubled neighborhood. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Kevin walks along a skid row street outside Gladys Park — just a few blocks from his home — where police activity is commonplace. Scores of homeless people and addicts gather there and, at times, the tiny city park degenerates into a “crime orgy,” a veteran LAPD officer says. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
A homeless man greets children as they enter Gladys Park, an area of contention on skid row. Activists successfully lobbied to make the park — normally full of homeless people getting off the street — open only to children on Friday afternoons. After police clear out the adults and check for stray syringes, the park’s iron gates are opened to neighborhood children to play on the hill overlooking palm trees and a colorful mural. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
A young girl at Gladys Park is among an estimated 150 children living in the skid row area. In December, city officials, skid row advocates and police hatched a plan to let children play at the park. “They don’t have any place to play,” says LAPD Officer Deon Joseph, who has patrolled skid row for 10 years. “This is one place for them to come and get away from everything.” (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Kevin Cedano plays basketball at Gladys Park with officers from the Los Angeles Police Department. The teenager, who has been relegated to playing alone on the roof of the hotel he calls home, has long been desperate for a place to run and for friends. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Kevin stands outside the wrought-iron fence that surrounds Gladys Park, which is more like a shelter than a park because it is mostly occupied by homeless people trying to get off the streets. For many of the children living on skid row, the future is dark. The district’s 50 square blocks are believed to be home to 400 registered sex offenders and 3,000 people on probation for violent crimes or drug charges. And for all of the LAPD’s recent efforts, the streets remain littered with the detritus of failure, addiction and poverty. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Students from the skid row charter school operated by Para Los Ninos cross the street to Gladys Park, which normally has been off-limits to children because of the number of homeless people and drug use there. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Kevin Cedano, center, laughs with other students on the bus ride home from Hollenbeck Middle School, where he earns decent grades. His specialty is math; he’s taking algebra and recently got an A. He says he wants to play football in high school. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Kevin Cedano, right, has grown up at the Ohio Hotel, where his parents met and both work. Kevin’s father, Eleno, in background, is a handyman of sorts and his mother, Gloria Martinez, works at the front desk. The hotel is hidden away in a forbidding pocket of skid row known as “The Bottoms,” away from most missions and social services agencies. There are few businesses in the area other than seafood distributors. On hot days, the streets smell like squid. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Kevin and his mother look through old family photos in his bedroom, which he shares with two of his three sisters. He serves as an interpreter so his parents can speak with building inspectors who visit the Ohio Hotel, where conditions have improved in recent years. Kevin fills notebooks with sketches of TV characters, and he’s hand-written a two-volume story about a man who protects the world despite losing his memory in battle. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Kevin descends down the hotel entrance and out to the streets. Every day, he is besieged from the moment he steps outside. Kevin says people want him to try heroin, or sell crack, or just want a quarter. He’s been thrown to the ground and beaten by young men incensed that he won’t join their gang. “I have to just let myself get beat up,” he says. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)