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Skid row activists attack Trump in ‘alternative state of the union’ address

Jerry Jones of the Inner City Law Center and others deliver an “alternative state of the union” address on skid row.
(Gale Holland/Los Angeles Times)

Skid row activists on Tuesday aimed what they called their “alternative state of the union” address squarely at President Trump, blaming him for the homeless tents that flanked them as they spoke.

Five speakers from various agencies, speaking outside the Los Angeles Community Action Network headquarters on skid row, turned many of Trump’s catchphrases against him as they ticked off safety net cutbacks they said forced 58,000 L.A. County residents, and 550,000 people nationwide, into the streets.

“I ask the president to tear down this wall...that puts many separate from housing,” said Janet Denise Kelly of Sanctuary of Hope, which serves homeless former foster children. “America is not back, America is backward.”

Mark Casanova, executive director of Homeless Health Care Los Angeles, assailed the president and Congress for failing to declare an emergency over the opioid epidemic he said is killing 100 people a day, including many of his group’s clients.

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Silvia Hernandez said drugs were a symptom, not a cause, of homelessness.

“It’s not drugs, it’s not addiction, it’s lack of housing,” said Hernandez, a member of the downtown Women’s Action Coalition. “And also the lack of services focused on women.”

Speakers said Trump had widened the income gap that led to widespread homelessness. They said Trump spoke only for what Margaret Prescod, the event moderator, called the “gilded cage” sector of Americans, not the people they see living on sidewalks around them.

Prescod produces and hosts the Sojourner Truth radio broadcast on the Pacifica Foundation network.

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“He doesn’t see the most vulnerable among us homeless individuals who are mentally or physically disabled huddled in doorways for a bit of warmth, sleeping on our sidewalks,” said Jerry Jones, director of public policy for the Inner City Law Center.

Prescod criticized television and other media for failing to cover their alternative take on the State of the Union.

gholland@latimes.com

Twitter: @geholland

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