When It Comes to Helping Mentally Ill Homeless Individuals, the Challenges Are Steep

Monday, April 2, 2018

Eddie Kim - Los Angeles Downtown News

By Blair Besten’s count, the man she calls “James” has been living and sleeping in the Historic Core for a decade or longer, usually curling up near the intersection of Eighth Street and Broadway.

One of his most troubling routines was to step into oncoming traffic at Seventh and Spring streets to defecate on the pockmarked asphalt nearly every day. Besten, the executive director of the Historic Core Business Improvement District and a neighborhood resident, also frequently found him wandering without any shoes, or sleeping with no layers on cold, windy nights.

Last year, she decided to try to get him help. It was easier thought than done — James wouldn’t agree to treatment. Besten persisted, spending hours observing him with psychiatric specialists. At one point, he was spotted chewing on bits of tar from the roadway, and the group decided to intervene.

“It took a long time. He was sick, had sores all over him, and eventually the team got him to agree to go into an ambulance,” Besten recalled. “He was transported to the county hospital.”