Homeless ‘dumped’ on skid row

The practice had long been suspected but police say they now have evidence, releasing pictures and video to the media today of five hospital patients being left in the downtown area commonly known as skid row.

“We cannot allow the dumping of the most needy … into that environment, and shame on those who do,” Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton told reporters.

Police said the five people they documented — all on Sunday — were left on skid row against their will.

One 62-year-old man, released from the hospital after treatment on his knee, told police he had asked to be taken to his son’s home.

“Our supervisors gave that guy a ride back to his house. His family was outraged. Not only did they not know he had been discharged but the fact he had been brought to skid row instead of back home was a further outrage,” Sergeant Greg McManus told reporters.

Los Angeles Metropolitan hospital, which was involved in all five cases, denied leaving the patients outside a skid row rescue centre against their will, saying they had asked to go there.

An estimated 12,000 homeless live and sleep on the sidewalks of skid row, an area about 50 blocks in size, in what is thought to be the highest concentration of homeless in the United States.

Many are mentally ill and thousands are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Shelters and groups providing social and mental services have claimed repeatedly that hospitals and police departments in nearby cities dump problem people in the area.

Last year, police reported seeing someone wearing a colostomy bag wandering there in a confused state.

“Skid row is akin to Dante’s Inferno — not the place you want to be discharging patients, especially elderly patients or patients who are disoriented, suffering from a medical disability or disorder,” said Jeff Isaacs, head of the Los Angeles city attorney’s criminal branch.

The investigation will focus on possible violations of federal laws that require medical facilities to screen and stabilise patients before releasing them.

It comes as Los Angeles city council seeks a compromise on a policy that attempted to ban people from sitting, lying or sleeping on the streets. It was ruled unconstitutional in April on the grounds of cruel and unusual punishment.