Reverend Andy Bales, CEO of Skid Row’s Union Rescue Mission, has recently been dragged pretty thoroughly on social media for his unconscionable collaboration with hired killers sent by Donald Trump to implement what is sure to be an appalling and probably genocidal plan for some kind of final solution to this City’s inability to house its residents as well as his tone-deaf support of the very worst local psychopathic housedwelling politicians.
His responses as far as I have seen have been mostly of two types. First of all he denies that Trump wants to put homeless human residents of Los Angeles into concentration camps even though there actually aren’t that many people that Trump doesn’t want to put into concentration camps and the list, along with the capacity of the camps, grows larger each day. Second he accuses everyone who criticizes him of being gang-affiliated drug/sex traffickers who oppose the Trump/Bales plan because it’s likely to cut into their gangs’ drug/sex profits.
And I don’t have much to say about the second trope other than the really obvious “EEW GROSS pls shut up pls!” But it turns out that there is something important to say about the first. Yesterday, Friday, November 22, 2019, Bales appeared on KNX Radio and was interviewed by Charles Feldman and Mike Simpson about his collaboration with Trump. You can listen to the whole segment here, and there is a complete transcription below. But Feldman and Simpson asked him about the concentration camp thing.
Simpson asked in particular about concerns that “the police could be used, that there would be like a roundup. What do you say when you hear people say those things?” And Bales has a reason to doubt that Trump is going to round people up and put them in camps. It’s a stupid reason, but it is a reason. And it’s not at all reassuring. The reason, says Bales, that Trump is not going to round up homeless people and put them in camps is that there are no camps. That, he says, is our problem, that we don’t presently have camps:
… where would we take anybody? If there’s a sweep, where in the world would anybody be taken? We have to create places to take people and that’s the problem right now in Los Angeles. We do not have anywhere to take people who want to seek shelter. You have to create the shelter first and then you’ll have a place to take people.
Which of course speaks reassuringly to neither the abject depths of Trump’s evil nor the sanity of Bales himself. Possibly Bales is confusing concentration camps with houses, but we can be sure that Donald Trump and his minions aren’t. And obviously there actually are concentration camps. And even if there weren’t, building them isn’t ever the problem. They can be built fast.
Turning one part of the human race into raw material for jobs programs for another part is a core component of precisely the kind of populist fascism that Trump exemplifies. The best possible interpretation of Bales’s collaboration with Trump is that he’s blind to the fascism and the worst is that he’s complicit with it for his own purposes. Neither is good.
CF: Right now though President Trump has taken a personal interest in the growing homeless population in California, mostly using the issue as a way to hammer California’s Democratic leaders. But the president has asked for a plan to crack down on homelessness in California, and the White House is reportedly ready to roll out that plan next week. Reverend Andy Bales is the CEO of the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row. He has been advising the Trump administration on the homelessness issue. Reverend Bales, do you know what this White House plan that is apparently rolling out next week is going to be?
AB: I don’t know. I suspect and hope and believe and perceive what it might be but I do not definitely know. It’s very unpredictable.
MS: OK, but you’ve been advising, though. What have you told them that your hopes are?
AB: Well, as many know, I’ve been crying out for a FEMA-like Red-Cross-like response to the disaster of leaving 44,000 people on the streets to be devastated by prolonged homelessness. And my hope is that they’re going to come and they’re going to provide some land to some faith-based groups who will work at not only immediately sheltering people and not only sprung structures, microfiber structures that can be quickly put up. They’re waterproof, they’re heated, and air-conditioned and safe and 24/7/365 shelter and that we’re going to move toward both sheltering and recovery. And away from permanent supportive housing that costs $600,000 per unit per person and takes too long to build…
CF: Have you had direct meetings with the president?
AB: No. I have not had any direct meetings with the president. I met with four gentlemen from HUD and then I met with fifteen officials from every department of the White House and I gave them a tour of Skid Row. And I’ve since had some followup…
CF: OK, do you get the sense that they are empathetic to the problem? What kind of feedback have you been getting?
AB: They’ve been empathetic from the beginning. They’ve been focused on relieving people who are devastated from homelessness, providing shelter to people who’ve been left out on the streets suffering. And they’re interested in doing good. They’ve made it very clear, the folks I’ve dealt with, including Ben Carson, they’ve made it very clear they’re not into the political aspect of this. They’re into bringing relief to the people who are suffering on the streets. And I would say also to the housed people who are facing the growing difficulty when so many Angelenos are left on the streets. The Angelenos who are left on the streets are suffering the most but also all Angelenos are facing the consequences of what happens to a city when you leave people on the streets to be devastated physically and mentally by homelessness. So I’m hopeful. Maybe I’m too optimistic but I’m hopeful. I don’t get any indication that there’s going to be any kind of sweep…
MS: On that note, because I just want to pick up what you said a second ago. There are the criticisms out there that (A) the White House is trying to score some political points and (B) that the police could be used, that there would be like a roundup. What do you say when you hear people say those things?
AB: Well, if it’s political reasoning to come and rescue 44,000 people from living on the streets then good riddance, right? Because whatever the reasons, whatever the motivations, we actually do help the people on the streets. That would be a good thing. And where would we take anybody? If there’s a sweep, where in the world would anybody be taken? We have to create places to take people and that’s the problem right now in Los Angeles. We do not have anywhere to take people who want to seek shelter. You have to create the shelter first and then you’ll have a place to take people. That’s what I’m hoping is that we create the places to go and we do it in a big way, not in a pilot program. And I’ve pushed back. We don’t need any more pilot programs. We need to treat this like the FEMA-like Red-Cross-like National-Guard-like disaster that it is and get people off the streets. And the reason I’m glad about the shift, and, you know, there’s a man who’s reported, this man was pushed out of office. Well, what I understand is he’s a staunch supporter of the permanent housing harm reduction model, which means very expensive take too long to build housing as the solution for homelessness. And when you leave so many people on the streets and you focus all the resources on the few while you leave the many on the streets, those many left on the streets become tomorrow’s chronic homeless people. So we’ve actually multiplied street homelessness exponentially by focusing on a few and leaving the many on the streets.
MS: Alright, Reverend Andy Bales, running out of time here, but CEO of the Union Rescue Mission there on Skid Row. Reverend, thanks for your thoughts, thanks for your time.
Image of Reverend Andy Bales is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org.