U.N. Monitor on Extreme Poverty Makes Special Visit to L.A.’s Skid Row

A ghostly chant of “Bill of Rights, Bill of Rights” drifted out of a sidewalk tent as the United Nations monitor on extreme poverty walked the streets of skid row as part of a national tour investigating human rights conditions for the poorest U.S. citizens.

Philip Alston, the United Nations' monitor for extreme poverty, visited skid row last week to examine Los Angeles' response to homelessness. (Credit: Maria Cardona/ Los Angeles Times)

Philip Alston, the United Nations’ monitor for extreme poverty, visited skid row last week to examine Los Angeles’ response to homelessness. (Credit: Maria Cardona/ Los Angeles Times)

Philip Alston, an Australian and a New York University law professor, got a full taste of the epicenter of L.A. homelessness last week, passing by a shelter courtyard with dozens of people bedding down on the concrete because there was no room inside.

He and his entourage veered into the street to avoid a shirtless man who lay groaning across a wheelchair, a colostomy bag showing below his shorts hem.

“I think it’s on a scale I hadn’t anticipated, block after block of people,” Alston said at the tour’s end. “When you see how concentrated it is, it’s more shocking.”

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