A person built a ramshackle dwelling set amid trash piled five feet high and strewn along a wall for a hundred feet. Rats darted out from under the retch and rotten food, zigzagging every which way.
These are not conditions you usually expect to see in the United States. But this is Ceres Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, just yesterday, Wednesday Oct. 10, and this is where trash comes to sleep.
All images by Philip Iglauer.
Sprawling piles of rat-infested trash were left ignored by the city and now could be a source of the recent typhus outbreak, NBC Los Angeles said in a report. The city’s Department of Sanitation received more than 2,200 calls to 311 over a two-year period to pick up trash near homeless encampments, but failed to respond to more than half of those calls, according to the investigative report.
“If someone is calling 311 and not getting through, that’s unacceptable,” Mayor Garcetti told NBC, responding to the information. The NBC report dubbed the area in downtown L.A. where nine typhus cases have been reported as “The Typhus Zone.” The areas encompasses Skid Row, as well as nearby upscale residences and businesses.
Awarehouse worker at an apparel company located on Ceres between 7th and 8th streets routinely sees rats on the street. He declined to provide his name for this story. A homeless man living near the corner of 7th Street and Ceres Ave. said he’s afraid he’ll lose his stuff as a result of possible street cleanups undertaken to address the typhus outbreak in downtown.
Amid the trash, homeless encampments heavily populate Ceres Ave. for blocks and blocks. Rats can be clearly seen squirming amongst the piles of human waste, rotten food, and other trash. It’s a red-flag scenario that the city will now surely respond to, but a fresh wave of enforcement and clean-up could also impact people with no place else to go.
A homeless advocate working in the Skid Row area told the L.A. Taco that he’s concerned the city could overreact to the typhus outbreak by clearing out encampments and seizing property from people living there, which could be crushing to a person experiencing homelessness.
[UPDATE, 5:05 pm: NBC local reporter Joel Grover reports via Twitter that L.A. has cleaned up this stretch of Ceres Ave. Read on.]
Rats and other rodents carrying fleas are drawn to large piles of trash like the one on Ceres Ave. When NBC reporters asked Garcetti why the city hasn’t collected trash on a city street, he said: “Well, it should have been. And we’re going to get to the bottom of why it wasn’t and make sure that it is.”
On Wednesday, hundreds of city workers rallied outside City Hall and called on Garcetti, a potential presidential candidate, to “Fix LA” and be more involved in contract talks. Separately, the county health department announced the first death of 2018 related mosquito-borne West Nile Virus, in a statement.
People get sick when the infected flea ***** are rubbed into cuts and scrapes in the skin. Although a very serious and usually uncommon disease, typhus is rarely deadly and can be treated with antibiotics.
County health officials have previously told L.A. Taco that they are still trying to pinpoint the source of the typhus infections. There are 57 reported cases of typhus in L.A. County so far. “All of the cases associated with the outbreak have a history of living or working in downtown L.A. Some persons were experiencing homelessness; others were not,” public health officials said on Oct. 4.
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