This story is part of Image #11, “Innovation”, where we explore the architecture of everyday life – and what it would look like to tear it all down. Read the full issue here.
I first met Lionel Morales in March 2020 on the southwest corner of Alvarado Street and Beverly Avenue in historic Filipinotown, after I witnessed a driver run past him. The driver sped away, leaving Lionel screaming in pain and I stood dumbfounded. I didn’t know his real name at the time – everyone in the neighborhood called him “the boy” – but a few weeks later, after searching the streets and letting everyone know I was looking for him. , I was able to track down Lionel . Over the next two years, we became close and always cared about each other. The last time I saw Lionel alive was in January, across the street from where we met.
In the time that I knew Lionel, his life revolved around the intersection of Beverly and Alvarado. And despite numerous attempts to relocate him from the area, he fought hard to maintain a permanent place in the community. When he was swept from one corner, he rebuilt his life in another, no more than a few blocks away.
Lionel was proudly born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley, but in his later years, Filipinotown was home. He calls himself “the last man standing”, because he has seen so many of his reluctant teammates disappear due to “sweeps” – disguised displacements. page as hygiene efforts. As a Vietnam War veteran, Lionel knows a thing or two about combat. “I am a soldier,” he once told me while recounting the time he went to the aid of a friend who suffered a drug overdose. “My job is to make sure he can see the next morning,” Lionel told me. With a dose of Narcan, a drug that quickly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, Lionel saved his friend’s life.
In the fall of 2020, Aloha Catering, a Hawaiian restaurant, moved to the area and sought the help of Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, as well as the LAPD, to relocate the area in time for its opening. , according to the email I received. through a public records request. “Everybody goes their own way,” Lionel told me a few weeks after the raid. Months earlier, the same board member had been instrumental in getting Lionel to join Project Roomkey, a program to house unoccupied residents in vacant hotel rooms during the pandemic.
The sweep further pushed Lionel into homelessness and away from resources. A volunteer from Street Watch LA, a local outreach group, tried to bring Lionel warm clothes and a cane but was unable to locate him after the sweep. I also see him less often, but when I do, it’s always near the corner of Alvarado and Beverly; I can’t remember ever seeing him more than a block or two from the intersection. His health has deteriorated noticeably. The last time I ran into him, he was southeast of Alvarado near the bus stop, and he couldn’t cross the street on his own. He had no money to buy food or any way to get around. He is extremely weak but optimistic. “I finally have a room, Lex…” I remember him telling me. After years of trying to get a home, he is finally at home. Sadly, a few weeks later, on February 16, Lionel died in the hospital at the age of 69.
Lexis-Olivier Ray is a staff investigative reporter at LA Taco and an artist based in Los Angeles.
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https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/image/story/2022-05-18/los-angeles-photographer-lexis-olivier-ray-pays-tribute-to-life-and-death-of-an-unhoused-neighbor A tribute to Lionel Morales, unhoused member of Filipinotown