On a sparsely developed corner, on Skid Row in Los Angeles, where tent cities sometimes stretch the length of entire blocks, a line is forming outside a storage facility known as ‘The Bin.”
At 8 a.m. most mornings, local residents wait outside the building’s entrance to access one of the nearly 1,500 storage bins arranged in rows inside. Patrons of The Bin are in one state of homelessness or another, and, for many of them, their assigned bins contain the only remnants of life before the streets – clothing, books, cell phones, family portraits, birth certificates, prescription medicines, social security cards.
One by one, they make their way into a small reception hall inside the facility. After checking in with staff, their assigned bins are wheeled out of a large holding area and into the reception hall, where patrons retrieve or add to their belongings.
For a person who is homeless, secure storage at The Bin means not having to haul things around the streets; it means being able to do what needs to be done – receive services, look for a job, or seek shelter – without worrying that possessions will be lost or stolen. The City of Los Angeles provides the bins to anyone who needs them, for as long as they need access to them, provided that nothing stored is dangerous or illegal.
Fifty-year-old Ethan Hiatt is grateful for the service. “I come once or twice a day,” he says. “If I didn’t have this bin, I’d have to get rid of most of my stuff. These bins are really great to have.”