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Monday, July 7, 2008

Upwardly Mobile Now "Downwardly Mobile"

Recently, Associated Press Writer, Christiana Hoag reported that more and more people in Los Angeles are joining the legions of people she calls, “downwardly mobile.” These are individuals who are just four wheels away from complete homelessness.

"I'm not a piece of trash," says Ms. Knoll, a former home health-care aide as she stroked one of five dogs in her cramped quarters parked in the waterfront community of Marina del Rey.

Some people are crowding into other parts of the city, including the seaside community of Venice, where dozens of rusty, dilapidated campers can be seen lined up outside neat single-family homes. In Los Angeles, as in many other cities, it is illegal to live in vehicles on public streets. But the law is not easy to enforce. Police have to enter a vehicle to find signs that people are living there, such as cooking or sleeping, and occupants often refuse to answer when cops knock.

"It's trending toward an increase," said Michael Stoop, acting executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. "People would rather live in a vehicle than wind up in a shelter, and you can't stay on a friend's couch forever."

"For more working-class and lower-middle-class people, the car is the first stop of being homeless, and sometimes it turns out to be a long stop," said Gary Blasi, a University of California, Los Angeles, law professor and activist on homeless issues.

"We need somewhere we can have a safe haven, where we won't be harassed," Ms. Knoll said as the wind from a passing car rocked her RV. "I never thought I'd be living like this, but I'm stuck. This is it for me."

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