Things That Matter

He Didn’t Make The Debate Stage But Julián Castro Was On The Streets Of LA Talking Homelessness And How To Fix It

Although rules and performance requirement prevented him from joining seven other Democratic candidates on the debate stage, Julian Castro was still out delivering his message. This time he was in Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood to discuss with residents how he, as President, could work to improve the nation’s housing crisis.

The homelessness crisis facing most California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, was once again a national story this week, with the Supreme Court agreeing to pass on hearing arguments in an appeal of Martin vs. Boise, a case concerned with the criminalization of the homeless. That decision leaves the ruling of the 9th Circuit of Appeals, which includes California, in place, which argues that cities can’t criminalize the homeless unless they provide adequate shelter

So it made sense for Castro to use the opportunity to introduce the groundwork for a housing plan that his administration would put forward should he win the 2020 election.

Julián Castro met with residents of LA’s Skid Row to discuss housing issues and the growing homelessness crisis.

Credit: @JulianCastro / Twitter

Castro said he had visited previously as housing secretary, and believes that the Trump administration — which is considering using law enforcement to clear homeless encampments as part of a federal plan — has taken a hostile stance against the homeless population. As president, Castro said, he would work to reverse the administration’s decisions.

Castro is the third presidential candidate who has publicly toured skid row this year, said Lisa Marlow, communications coordinator of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a nonprofit that is tracking the candidates’ statements on housing. Vermont Sen. Sanders toured in August and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, who dropped out of the presidential race last month, visited in September.

LA’s Skid Row neighborhood has one of the country’s highest concentrations of people experiencing homelessness.

While walking along the neighborhood, which has one of the largest homeless populations in the country, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary spoke with individuals about his housing plans.

One man, who recognized the candidate and yelled out “Castro,” asked him, “What are you going to do differently than anybody else?”

The Mexican-American contender replied, according to the Los Angeles Times: “I actually put out the boldest housing plan to try and end homelessness by 2028, by creating a lot more housing opportunities for everyone.”

The former San Antonio mayor’s plan, People First Housing, declares that housing is a human right and aims to end chronic homelessness.

Credit: @JulianCastro / Twitter

His detailed plan addresses the following issues that are contributing to the growing homelessness crisis:

  • Making rents more affordable through a renter’s tax credit, increased rental vouchers for at-risk and low-income people, while increasing the availability of adorable housing through new land use and zoning policies.
  • Increase homeownership through additional government programs, increased federal lending and by holding Wall Street accountable in relation to responsible lending.

Through these two approaches, Castro hopes to put an end to the nation’s homelessness crisis by the year 2028. It’s an ambitious goal but one that many say is attainable with clear and concise tools.

Other candidates also have put out housing policy plans.

Amy Klobuchar’s “Housing First Plan” pledges a trillion dollars toward improving housing and poverty reduction. Klobuchar is calling to fund the Housing Trust Fund at a minimum of $40 billion per year. The money would go toward building, fixing and operating homes for low-income families. 

Additionally, Klobuchar calls for limiting wait times for housing assistance to three months, down from the nearly two to three years her campaign said Americans may wait on a list. The plan also calls for a new grant program for states to provide temporary support for those at risk of homelessness while they wait for housing assistance. 

The senator also proposes creating a federal grant program to help states increase outreach to low-income renters and make them aware of resources available to them. To ease issues connecting low-income renters to affordable housing, Klobuchar also calls for reducing associated fees and streamlining the application process. 

California, and Los Angeles in particular, are ground zero for the nation’s affordable housing crisis.

California’s housing crisis continues to swell, fueled by rising rents. This year, L.A. County saw a surge in the number of people sleeping on the streets, in shelters or in their cars, rising to nearly 59,000. More than 36,000 people are homeless in the city of Los Angeles. On skid row, tents and blue tarps line the sidewalks and shopping carts overflow with items.

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Vanessa Bryant Suing Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Over Leaked Photos Of Kobe And Gianna

Entertainment

Vanessa Bryant Suing Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Over Leaked Photos Of Kobe And Gianna

kobebryant / lacosheriff / Instagram

Vanessa Bryant filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department alleging violation of privacy. The lawsuit stems from behavior by the officers at the scene of her husband and daughter’s death.

Vanessa Bryant is suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

On Jan. 26, a helicopter carrying Kobe and Gianna Bryant, Payton and Sarah Chester, Alyssa, Keri, and John Altobelli, Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan crashed in the Calabasas hills. The sudden death devastated those who knew Kobe and the city of Los Angeles that mourned his death for months after.

Vanessa was shocked to hear that the sheriff deputies took photos of her husband’s and daughter’s bodies at the crash site.

“This lawsuit is about accountability and about preventing this disgraceful behavior from happening to other families in the future who have suffered loss,” Vanessa’s attorney, Luis Li, said in a statement. “The department formally refused Mrs. Bryant’s requests for information, saying it was ‘unable to assist’ with any inquiry and had no legal obligation to do so. It’s now for a court to tell the department what its obligations are.”

Bryant is suing the department claiming damages for emotional distress, negligence, and invasion of privacy.

Kobe fans are upset with the LACSD and the allegations that the deputies took these photos.

According to TMZ, Sheriff Alex Villanueva knew about the photos taken by eight deputies and shared within the department. They were also shared in the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation. Sheriff Villanueva told the deputies to delete the photos from their phones and felt confident they did so.

A trainee allegedly shared the photos with a woman in a bar.

A witness to the event said that a trainee took out his phone and showed a woman the photos to impress her. The bartender overheard the conversation and filed an online complaint about the trainee and their behavior with the photos. The trainee showed the woman the photos a few days after the crash leading many to believe that the sheriff’s department was fully aware of the photos.

Kobe fans are standing behind Vanessa as she follows through with her lawsuit.

Reports state that the sheriff’s department told deputies to delete the images to avoid disciplinary action. The coverup is sparking outrage by Kobe fans who are angered that the department did not do enough to protect the dignity and privacy of all of the victims of the crash.

Mitú will update this story as it continues to develop.

READ: Vanessa Bryant Forced To Respond To ‘Beyond Hurtful’ Comments Made By Her Own Mom On ‘El Gordo y La Flaca’

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How ‘Latinx With Plants’ Bloomed From Instagram To An L.A. Shop Reconnecting The Gente To Plant Healing Properties

Fierce

How ‘Latinx With Plants’ Bloomed From Instagram To An L.A. Shop Reconnecting The Gente To Plant Healing Properties

Growing up, Andi Xoch’s aunt encouraged her to speak to plants. Her relatives usually laughed at the sight of a woman talking to her in-house flowers, but Xoch was intrigued. As a little girl, she acknowledged that there was life inside the pots, so conversing with them seemed standard. More than two decades later, that seed of curiosity about flora bloomed into Latinx with Plants, a digital community and IRL Los Angeles-based shop that teaches Latinxs of their ancestral relationship with herbage.

Sprouted in the spring of 2019, Latinx with Plants started as an account on Instagram. Through the page, Xoch wanted to provide representation of Latinx plant parents that she felt was lacking despite the community’s deep and vast connection with herbs and gardening.

“We’ve had a long connection with plants even before the trend started,” Xoch, a Mexico City-born, L.A.-raised organizer and artist, tells FIERCE.

“I wanted to represent that, to show that we’ve been part of this world even if it’s not presented in an Instagrammable form.”

For the past few years, so-called plant porn has dominated Instagram content. With hashtags like #plantgang and #urbanjungles, the growing trend has helped produce a new generation of young people with green fingers that are boosting sales of houseplants and inspiring even the basement recluse to be a plant parent. In fact, a National Gardening report found that 83 percent of the people in the U.S. who took up gardening in 2016 were between the ages of 18 and 34. Even more, it reported that 37 percent of millennials grow herbs and plants indoors, more than the 28 percent of baby boomers who do the same.

However, with the exception of a few accounts, including Xoch’s friend D’Real who created @blackwithplants and inspired her to make a similar account, many of these digital spaces are overwhelmingly white. This, Xoch says, ignores the history Latinxs have with plants and the sustainable practices they developed while gardening for decades.

“You walk onto our people’s front yards and you see their food: plantains, avocados [and] chayotes. And it’s all sustainable; they use pots made out of buckets and cans. It’s beautiful,” the 32-year-old says. “This is who we are. This is our culture.”

As Latinxs, Xoch says that our Indigenous roots have been forgotten or intentionally kept from us but that we can reconnect to our origins through inherited practices. Among them is ancestral medicines. At her shop, several elders come in and casually inform Xoch about the healing properties of her different plants. While the whitewashed mainstream plant blogosphere has co-opted much of the everyday traditions practiced within low-income communities of color, she finds comfort in knowing that these remedies are being passed down across generations through word of mouth and are not being commodified. 

These informal educational encounters is one of the reasons why Xoch established her brick and mortar in August. Aside from selling an array of plants at the Boyle Heights-located shop, she wanted to create a space where new plant parents and señora gardeners can enter and feel welcomed, experience the joyous power of verdure and learn from one another. 

She says that her mission is to build community and help people who feel depressed, anxious and alone, particularly amid the Covid-19 pandemic, experience the healing power of plants.

“Plants can be an asset to you because, whether you think it’s just for the plant’s sake to be alive, you are actually participating in a self-care act by nurturing your plant,” Xoch says. “They force you to get up every day and help you realize a lot of beautiful things about yourself that you forget to acknowledge: the caregiving, the attention, the love, the dancing, the singing — all the things that make it bloom are also exercises in self-love, self-care and self-preservation.” 

A newbie business owner, Xoch says she now has another objective, though: to offer a non-traditional example of success and to be honest about the struggles of entrepreneurship. 

On paper, Xoch’s road to becoming a boss seems swift and simple: She learned the location of a potential property on a Sunday, visited it on Monday, signed her lease on Wednesday and opened up shop the following weekend. However, the reality is much more complicated. A high school dropout, her lifelong dream to open a business was halted because she lacked the confidence, capital and connections to get started. Even when she did launch the store, the experience was far from easy. Xoch opened her small business from the ground up on a tight budget amid a pandemic and while her father sat ill at a hospital where doctors thought he would die.

“I want people to know this is real shit that people go through. We have the load of the world on us, we are caring for our relatives and we are trying to make sure our business is doing well,” she says. “I walk in [my store] and that alone is defying the odds.”


Follow Latinx with Plants on Instagram. For those in Los Angeles, visit the shop, which is complying with Covid-19 regulations and operating by appointment only, at 2117 E Cesar Chavez Ave.

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