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The Los Angeles Times Still Needs To Apologize to the Unhoused Community

Theo Henderson of podcast 'We The Unhoused' says the legacy paper still needs to account for its gross editorial missteps.

Theo Henderson of the podcast "We the Unhoused"
Photos: Zen Sekisawa, Frances Orr

November 16, 2021 will be etched in my mind forever.  Two incidents were intertwined:  Houselessness and callous indifference. I was preparing to report on the Unhoused Veterans rally. This rally was to put fire to the feet of Representative Ted Lieu, who has callously ignored the pleas from the veteran community to give them permanent housing on VA land that belongs to them.

The second callous incident pertaining to Houselessness is the reporter Robin Abcarian. Her LA Times opinion column’s previous headline read: “Bike gone missing? Check your local encampment.” You read this right.  An open invitation to NIMBY vigilantes to descend upon vulnerable people who may have a bike that looks like yours. This is the pretext for police violence and City Hall erasure via 41.18.

The condemnation of the column was swift from the Angeleno community online, and the headline ultimately went through several hidden changes, until the paper settled on: “A bike goes missing, a chit in LA’s homeless economy.”

I wrote a response to this problematic opinion in the LA Times. But rather than take responsibility for their poor judgement and dangerous publishing standards, Robin Abcarian and the LA Times have apparently doubled down. In response to the justified outrage, Abcarian tweeted: “Please don’t be scared.  Hold someone’s hand while reading my column.  That should help.” Yes, you read this right too.

Tweet from Robin Abcarian

Furthermore, a November 3 Robin Abcarian column, titled “The homeless encampment next door,” also doxxes an encampment while baselessly accusing the residents of being drug dealers. Given the pattern, it’s clear where the paper’s priorities lie, and hope for their future coverage of Houselessness is dim.

It defies belief that the LA Times did not apologize or even offer any sort of public correction or explanation for this horrid faux pas. If they had doxxed a housed person or falsely accused them of dealing drugs, they would have treated the issue with far more gravity, and offered a public account of their errors, but because their victims are Unhoused, they offer crickets and snide tweets. Even in horror stories there is hope for a better ending. Hope is a curious thing, it can be the difference of giving out or giving up.

This reporter gave up the siren song to violence, but the Unhoused community consistently gives out the ray of hope they will be helped and housed.

Where reporter Robin Abcarian gives up a caustic and callous response, the Unhoused community gives out trauma informed care for healing.

Where city leaders, law enforcement, and some mainstream media give up dehumanizing reporting, carceral solutions and violence, the Unhoused community gives out the demand to be treated humanely.

I will leave this missive with my modified refrain.  Let us hold hands in the light of understanding that services not sweeps get us there. It’s not more harassment, violence and segregation.

If you would like to support Theo Henderson’s work, consider becoming a patron for his podcast ‘We the Unhoused.’