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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Abigail O'Leary

Oscars glitz and glamour sits within heartbreaking contrast of Hollywood's homeless

This year's highly coveted Oscars goody bag contains an eye-watering £100,000 ($126k) worth of gifts - including a patch of land in Australia.

But just steps away from the red carpet (updated to a shimmering champagne colour this year) - homeless men and women have seen their entire existence shrunk to just that, a small patch of land - namely a concrete square on which, if lucky, they pitch a flimsy tent, now rain battered and sodden after weeks of storms sweeping through Los Angeles.

Those without tents move from doorway to doorway, while some shelter under billboards displaying show posters or tourist maps.

Meanwhile, the set-up for the Oscars is so big it could win its own Academy Award for set production.

Homeless people in LA County form small terraces of tents as shelter on Oscars weekend (Abigail O'Leary)
A homeless man shelters under a billboard emblazoned with the word 'Hollywood' (Abigail O'Leary)

It swallows a huge chunk of Hollywood Boulevard, fenced off by a blacked-out, 6ft metal barrier along with this year's overhead cover protecting the rich and famous from the rain towering over the street below.

Souvenir shop after souvenir shop, restaurant after restaurant, thousands of tourists buzzing with the excitement of a day in the celebrity hub of the world - the street is truly alive with activity.

Just hours before the event, the Oscar prep is so huge it has caused a power outage on the world-famous boulevard, with many shops and restaurants plunged into darkness -including the iconic Hard Rock Cafe.

A view of a homeless encampment on Skid Row in LA (Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

But amongst this undeniably exciting atmosphere, there are forgotten people here.

Hollywood's homeless are "dying" in the street, according to new LA mayor Karen Bass, who recently pledged to get 17,000 of the city's 41,000 homeless population into temporary accommodation.

On the surface, this may seem like little more than embellished politico-speak as part of Bass' 2022 campaign for Mayor, but one short stroll down Hollywood Boulevard cements her words in absolute truth.

The Oscars are held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California (GC Images)

In fact, data released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) in September 2022 found an average of five people a day were dying on the streets across the wider LA Country.

This horrifying death rate derives from California, a state with the fifth-largest economy in the world.

With one 10-minute walk past the Dolby Theatre, these statistics change from words on a page, to real people, fighting every day to survive.

A man sleeps in a doorway (Abigail O'Leary)

The sadness is palpable and the acute wealth divide even starker during this glamorous event.

On a damp and cold day in Hollywood, just hours before the Oscars kicks off, displaced people must fight through another day - this time to a backdrop of light rigging, sound testing, curtain hanging, prop prepping - the list goes on.

One man, calmly flicking through a puzzle book takes shelter from the intermittent rain beneath a small billboard, emblazoned with the word 'Hollywood' at its head.

The inside of the theatre is a far cry to the desperate situation outside (ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

The man has pinned handwritten signs to its façade asking for help, spare change or food.

Other displaced people work together to create small terraces of tents on sidewalks, as seen on a larger scale at nearby Skid Row - a huge unhoused community, many of whom have lived on the street for years.

Some shelter in doorways of empty buildings on Hollywood Boulevard or shops shut for the evening.

A homeless person crafts a shelter from an upturned pet-pen (Abigail O'Leary)

One individual has created a shelter from an upturned pet-pen and a too-small and partly-ripped piece of tarpaulin.

The scene is repeated on streets, bridges and embankments at the side of major highways throughout LA County.

Latest reports show the homeless numbers across the County have soared during and since the pandemic to a shocking 69,144 - and around 41,000 in the city itself.

The finishing touches are put to the 95th Academy Awards (Barbara Munker/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) finished its first count of 2023 last month, and while figures are yet to be announced, the service revealed it took an army of 6,066 people just to conduct the count across multiple LA communities.

New LA mayor Karen Bass has pledged to (partly) tackle the growing problem by placing 17,000 of the city's homeless people into temporary accommodation.

A person kneels on the sidewalk as another person sleeps in Skid Row (Getty Images)

Bass said: "The homelessness crisis is front and centre. It’s what’s impacting everybody, the fact that people are dying on the streets every day."

Admittedly, the excitement of a visit to Hollywood Boulevard is only amplified during an event as exciting as the Oscars - but while this weekend will come and go in a camera flash or Instagram post of glitz, glamour and £100,000 goody bags, Hollywood's homeless will remain, for at least as long as the fight within them allows.

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