Skid Row is a 50 to 54-square block area in downtown Los Angeles between 3rd and 7th Streets to the North and South, and Alameda and Main to the East and West. On any given day, an average of 80,000 homeless and transient people live there. According to award-winning L.A. Times Journalist Steve Lopez, there are no words to begin to convey Skid Row’s reality. It’s ground zero of homelessness. The suicide rate is one of the highest in the area and it’s accompanied by high rates of violent crimes and drug use. In fact, there are over 100,000 heroin users in the county and only a few residential detox facilities.
Los Angeles mayor called his city the “homeless capital of the country.” Los Angeles has double the rate of homelessness of New York City. But Skid Row is much more than just a place— it’s a lifestyle, a mindset, and maybe even the last resort for those who have given up on society and might have also given up on themselves.
In this feature documentary, Praskazrel Michel, a member of the successful hip-hop band The Fugees, left the comforts of Beverly Hills and deliberately chose to live as a homeless person on the streets of Skid Row for nine consecutive days. His original intention was to shine a light on what really goes on downtown and to connect with some of the people, but in the end he ended up shining a light within himself, searching for answers to the inevitable question “what can I do to end this?”
During his stay in Skid Row both he and his crew are under cover. But the very first night it became pretty obvious that they were going to need to use hidden cameras for security reasons.
Pras Michel’s journey is a difficult one from the get go. Among the many problems he faces are hunger, exposure to the elements, an infestation of cat-sized rats, and dangerous run-ins with criminals and drugs. His last night is spent underneath the bridge, meditating on the life he has led and the huge difference in the lifestyle of people who live just a few blocks away. The county of Los Angeles is simultaneously the habitation of 262,000 millionaires and 88,000 homeless people. Something is terribly wrong with this picture.
In the end it turns out to be a life-changing experience because Pras learns much more than only how to fend for himself. He arrived on Skid Row with just $9.00 and a tent but after he experienced firsthand the dark underbelly of Los Angeles, he left Skid Row with life lessons he won’t easily forget. Watch this film now.