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Living on skid row isn't a choice

Lest anyone who read this article on skid row resident Annie Moody come away with the impression that those living on the streets choose to be homeless, this is a myth that those of us who work at the Downtown Women's Center know too well. And though I commend reporter Gale Holland for putting together a nuanced portrait of Moody, the questions remain: Why do we continue to portray homelessness as a choice, and why do we criminalize our most vulnerable citizens?

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No single article can capture the experiences of Moody and the many others who call skid row home. In my experience helping to end homelessness for thousands of women annually, I have found that no woman wants to be homeless, even though myriad factors may keep someone from

accepting help. The shelter system can be frightening and overwhelming; mental and physical disabilities may present roadblocks to services; and the dearth of affordable housing can leave a person defeated. Given these factors, the streets may feel like the only option.

While our community undeniably has challenges, there is also overwhelming resilience and innovation. For Moody and the thousands of others on skid row, we choose empowerment over criminalization, collaboration over isolation, and action over resignation.

Lisa Watson

Los Angeles

The writer is chief executive of the Downtown Women's Center.

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