Los Angeles Poverty Department
Los Angeles Poverty Department was founded in 1985 by director-performer-activist John Malpede. LAPD was the first performance group in the nation made up principally of homeless people, and the first arts program of any kind for homeless people in Los Angeles.
Skid Row Los Angeles is the poorest area in the city, with the largest concentration of homeless people of any neighborhood in the US. At the time of its founding, homelessness in Skid Row was thought of as a “beans and blankets” issue. Poor and homeless people in the neighborhood were warehoused in shelters, fed in soup lines and there was little belief and no means for assisting people to rise out of this condition. LAPD, as the first arts organization on Skid Row, was active in a conversation and a movement with advocates, residents and social service professionals, that changed the paradigm by putting forward the idea that Skid Row could be improved, by embracing and nourishing the powers of the people who live there.
Based on our continuous, committed work on Skid Row, LAPD has been invited to create residency projects in communities throughout the US, and in the UK, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Bolivia and Nicaragua, working with drug recovery programs, shelters, policy advocates and arts organizations. We’ve won a number of awards including LA Weekly Theater Award; New York’s Bessie Creation Award; the San Francisco Art Institute’s Kent Award; Theater L.A.’s Ovation Award; Cornerstone Theater’s Bridge Award; and an Otto Award for political theater. In 2008, LAPD was nominated for “Prix du Souffleur” award for “Best Ensemble” in Paris theater, for our production “Red Beard, Red Beard”.