Creating Homelessness in the Antelope Valley, Part 1

by | Jul 26, 2011 | Uncategorized

Speaking of veterans, there’s a guy named Joey Gallo, a disabled vet with three serious medical conditions. Up until recently, he was living on his own land, with his cat and dog, in a remote location in California’s Antelope Valley. Officials began to show up and order him to get rid of stuff — at first, trash and weeds. Next, it was a motor home they said he couldn’t keep. Then, they escalated their demands and made him demolish some sheds.

Finally, they came back and ordered him to tear down his home. You’ve heard of the Stand Down, an event where homeless veterans can get help. Adding outrageous insult to injury, one government minion presented him with a flyer giving the date and location of the next Stand Down — as if to say, “Welcome to your new life, loser.” Will Gallo’s next stop be Skid Row? If so, he may meet some neighbors there.

We have already offered (satiric) lessons on “How to Become Homeless.” One way is to be a resident of this high desert region which is, unfortunately, only an hour or so travel time from Los Angeles. The local administration is trying very hard to cause massive homelessness out there. The photo on this page gives an idea of the sparseness of the population in the high desert region. There might be half a mile between dwellings. Yet the authorities insist that anonymous neighbors are constantly making “eyesore” complaints about various structures and vehicles, many of which are only visible from the air.

Under the aegis of the L.A. Weekly, Mars Melnicoff devoted six weeks to investigating the horrifying situation, and accomplished what promises to be an award-winning piece of journalism, “L.A. County’s War on Desert Rats.” A message comes through loud and clear: the victims of the Antelope Valley Land Grab are living national treasures, the quintessence of all the qualities that made America great.

The writer shows how the rugged individualists at the hardscrabble butt-end of nowhere are being systematically removed from their homes for some murky, as-yet-unknown reason. It’s kind of like one of those “sweeps” of the homeless that cities do before the Olympics or the political convention. Except these folks are on their own land — or what used to be their land — so the process is taking just a bit longer.

Melnicoff says,

The government can define land on which residents have lived for years as ‘vacant’ if their cabins, homes and mobile homes are on parcels where the land use hasn’t been legally established. Some have been jailed for defying the officials in downtown Los Angeles, while others have lost their savings and belongings trying to meet the county’s ‘final zoning enforcement orders.’ Los Angeles County has left some residents, who appeared to be doing no harm, homeless.

Melnicoff tells their stories. Some are retired people, who thought they were finished with hard labor, and figured they had earned the right to enjoy the little corner of the world they had paid for and fixed up to their liking. She tells of people who live frugal, thrifty, minimalist lives, and sincerely practice recycling far beyond sorting trash into different-colored buckets.

They came here to get off the grid, practice “VONU,” make monumental art, race their dirt bikes, commune with the spirits of the ancestors, or whatever. That’s why people settle in environmentally inhospitable areas in the first place: they possess a fine willingness to trade the convenience and amenities of the city for the space and opportunity to do things their way. They are people who can’t afford lawyers when they’re being railroaded, hogtied, and hung out to dry. They came here to get away from the depredations of gang members, and ran afoul of a much more dangerous gang — the bureaucrats of Los Angeles County.

(To be continued.)

Source: “L.A. County’s Private Property War,” LA Weekly, 06/23/11
Image by AlishaV (Alisha Vargas), used under its Creative Commons license.