Inside Skid Row – With Soft White Underbelly’s Mark Laita

Mar 20, 2022 4.9M Views 10.3K Comments

Skid Row in Los Angeles is notorious for open air drug usage, tents on the streets, and crime. Today we meet up with Mark Laita, the creator behind the YouTube channel Soft White Underbelly to get a better understanding of why people fall victim to the streets, why most won’t leave, and what’s the solution to this growing problem in American cities.


► Mark Laita:

if we get shot at we’ll just run
you’re well known in two parts what’s
the story with this stream track related
it was way worse than this much worse
yeah for everybody to a certain state
they’re all lonely lonely inside lonely
mentally this is the skid row police
station and here’s drug addicts right
here it was easy for me had great role
models had great opportunities these
people had none of that a lot of people
are addicted to the streets i’m addicted
to the wildness i’ve had guns pulled on
my face i’ve been conned and robbed
every which way you can imagine oh you
want me to get a job and shower and get
dressed and pay taxes and all that [ __ ]
[ __ ] that hundreds and hundreds of
thousands of dollars trying to fix these
people that are broken and i don’t even
know if that’ll work it’s controversial
that i think about this a lot you have
to change the way you think before you
can make better decisions
all right guys here we are downtown los
angeles downtown skid row 6th street
here with mark leyda many of you know
mark from his youtube channel soft white
underbelly mark gets into people’s
stories those living on the fringes drug
addicts prostitutes gang members and
c-note who knows the streets really well
down here we’re going to walk around
we’re going to get an understanding from
mark and ceno
about the homeless and cory corey’s over
there on the bike these guys these guys
know skid row as well as anybody
everybody makes a big deal about how
we need to fix homelessness and in la it
looks really awful right you have
homeless people living all over the city
even in some really expensive really
nice neighborhoods
but i don’t believe the problem is
homelessness at all because if you peel
back the layers you’ve got
drug addiction behind the homelessness
okay like all these people are drug
addicts you have a hard time finding
some that aren’t so then then you say oh
the problem is drugs like nancy reagan
said the problem is in drugs so you peel
back another layer and then it’s mental
illness behind that okay and then you
can say oh the problem is mental illness
but what causes that so you peel back
another layer and you’ve got the
childhood trauma the
broken families all that kind of
stuff that people went through when
people say just give people homes you’re
saying that’s not a solution or that’s
part of the solution or what do you
think well no i mean it it give it
provides a little bit of stability for
people right and that’s not a bad thing
right but like up in north hollywood
they built these like mini homes for
people they provide breakfast lunch and
dinner and you it’s basically free
housing like they’ve been giving people
free housing here yeah this this
building is full of drug addicts
basically free is the one guard free
c note
yeah so so it’s basically free housing
for people and there’s lots of that down
here or it’s like you know 50 a month or
something like that what about drug
rehab isn’t that going on down here too
yeah i mean there’s that the problem
with rehabs is is there to to do it
right i think is is tremendously
expensive like hundreds of thousands a
year i would think per person per person
don’t film down here if the camera’s
pointing at us is it all right or they
don’t do it it’ll be all right if we get
shot at we’ll just run
this video is sponsored by magic spoon
most cereals are a mix of sugar and
unhealthy ingredients but things have
changed enter magic spoon i absolutely
love this cereal it’s a cereal that
gives you healthier ingredients without
compromising taste magic spoon cereals
have zero grams of sugar 13 to 14 grams
of protein in only four net grams of
carbs in each serving only 140 calories
per serving they’re also keto friendly
gluten free grain free soy free and low
carb check out my little magic spoon
collection here
got all the flavors my wife is pretty
much eating all of these the peanut
butter is our favorite
really like this one too maple waffle
maple waffle is the bomb
so the cereal must taste like cardboard
yeah not at all magic spoon uses the
sweetener aloe loose and monk fruit
which doesn’t create a sugar spike and
is low calorie and for the coloring they
use fruit and vegetable juices click the
link below in the description to grab a
variety pack and try magic spoon today
and be sure to use the promo code
peters5 at checkout to get five dollars
off any order or go to
forward slash peter s5 magic spoon is so
confident in their product it’s backed
with a hundred percent happiness
guarantee so if you don’t like it for
any reason they’ll refund your money no
questions asked again click on the link
below and use code peter s5 for five
dollars off or go to
forward slash peter s5 to save five
dollars off of your order today now back
to the video so you know what’s the
story with this street
crack related okay yeah yeah certain
like the san pedro where we just crossed
that’s all spice
you can find some other drugs too but 99
of it is spice
this this national team going on here
yeah this street is uh mainly cracked
there’s other other areas that are
fentanyl so you’re saying each street
takes on its own identity oh yeah
yeah yeah the surface is housing you
peel back you peel back you peel back
basically it’s upbringing is that what
it comes down to i mean with the broken
families you can boil that down to like
poverty or or the greed of the rich and
you just keep peeling back the layers
but when you when you get to the very
very bottom of it all i think it’s just
loving each other
it’s just love right love is the answer
to all this kind of stuff like la is is
putting people up in housing i think
they’re just doing that just to make it
look better
because it’s embarrassing you come to la
and there’s homeless people everywhere
in front of your nice house so that
makes it really embarrassing right so if
you put them all in housing then it
looks better here’s a block that’s full
of tents and this is where how all of
skid row used to be okay now there’s
probably 40 of the tents are gone
because these people are in housing it
was way worse than this much worse yeah
at a street level it’s actually looking
oh it looks it it’s it’s much better
right now but that’s skid row santa
monica where i’m staying it’s
worse than i’ve ever seen it
yeah i don’t think they i don’t think
they have the same housing there and a
lot of people that left here or maybe
got housing kicked out maybe they
relocated to santa monica or venice or
north hollywood or hollywood
so is it fair to say though there are
different types of homeless those that
have the drug addiction
and and then mental illness is a huge
part of it
some people honestly fall hard on their
six four how tall you is see i mean a
lot of the problem is also education so
because that guy’s probably not going to
get a job at a fast food restaurant or
anywhere else hardware store because he
can’t really speak
intelligently then then it’s just gonna
make his life harder so the opportunity
inequalities the education inequalities
the poverty the broken families the
broken homes all that stuff leads to the
mental illness which leads to a drug
addiction which leads to homelessness
you’re well known it’s just parts not
everywhere i mean some people i mean
you’ve seen some people say hi to me
there’s like an endless supply of people
for me to interview here i could do this
for the rest of my life and never run
out there’s new people coming in i’m
right down the street from the greyhound
bus station there’s more people coming
all the time you’ve been down here 20
years right yeah can you talk on camera
is that cool is there a hierarchy like
someone’s in control of one street
someone’s in control of another street
or i don’t know but i can’t talk about
that okay okay
a lot of things can’t be talked about
is there like a connectivity is there a
family element to it we’re all family
brotherhood we’re all family around here
it’s one big dysfunctional family yeah
basically so you never go lonely and
scared around never
everybody to a certain state they’re all
lonely that’s why they’re down here more
or less lonely inside lonely lonely
mentally you know i mean it’s an element
a lot of things that’s why people don’t
it’s just not drug use and the drug
usually just to it’s true of a way of
escape or not really deal with the
issues or what that’s going on in here
in here there’s no easy solution
obviously but what are the solutions
the solution is up to the individual
because i can’t make a decision for the
next individual you know i mean yeah
yeah they ultimately have to they have
to make their own decisions within
themselves you know i mean to either
deal with the issues or not to deal with
it you know this is the result of not
dealing with it same with me you know
i’m saying a lot of issues i have i i
choose not to deal with so i i choose to
do to run around here and act [ __ ]
it’s just a temporary fix this kind of
makes the issue even worse so how often
do you use
oh if i may ask i don’t know every other
day baby every day
depends on my mood is fentanyl really
come in yeah football came in here and
just destroyed everything you know it’s
killed a lot of my friends so i’m sorry
man it’s like people that don’t even use
fitting or hair around they’ve been some
people they’d be mistaking it for a
crack and yeah i’m smoking it and dying
and just all kind of crazy stuff so
clip you up hey that didn’t recognize
you some punch and smells coming through
yeah yeah your toilets around here right
yeah the smells are pretty
pretty horrible pretty hardcore i don’t
bring my shoes into the house
where do people go number two in the
bathroom where are the bathrooms paint
buckets corners baskets
there’s one woman that does it right
right here she’ll do it right here right
in front of you yeah right just take a
the refresh center right here we’re
going to take shower wash clothes
there’s showers over here yeah okay yeah
they call it the refresh spot okay and
you can go there take a shower you can
charge your phone you can do your
laundry for my project i was going to
appalachia like i started doing that
like a year or two ago okay trying to
get away from all the drug stories i’m
not that interested in drugs
okay but i i i’m down here on skid row
and every story is involving drugs so it
looks like i’m a drug channel so i
wanted to get away from that so i
figured you know i know about appalachia
let me go there
and get some like interesting stories
but i go there and it’s like 99
drug stories there
it’s even worse than here
and they’re not doing they’re not able
to do anything about it here you’ve got
the missions that are giving free
clothing y’all you know los angeles is a
wealthy city a lot of people are
donating nice clothing that’s why you
see these interviews with people that
are dressed really well on my channel
right but they’re home they’re they’re
as broke as as you can imagine and then
missions provide you know breakfast
lunch and dinner and there’s all kinds
of other services mental health all that
all that kind of stuff is is available
here but in other parts of the country
you don’t have any of that stuff if you
were homeless and drug addicted wouldn’t
you rather be in california where it’s
42 degrees at night rather than chicago
which is
so it’s attracting 10 10 degrees it’s
attracting people from all over the
country yeah i think so yeah i’ve heard
many many stories of people like how’d
you get here well the police state
department in my city
kicked me out and put me on a one-way
ticket to l.a on a greyhound bus i’ve
been here for 12 years yeah i don’t see
it getting any better you know with
fentanyl it seems to be even worse more
people dying
right the the the home of this homeless
community is bigger you know it’s more
spread out over the city you know 12
years ago it wasn’t in santa monica and
venice like it is today mark in your
content you’ve shot thousands of videos
you’re super prolific four thousand so
far four thousand okay in my content
which i’ve done a small fraction of that
we go into a lot of issues in society
yep one thing i find is i don’t really
ever offer many solutions i try but
you know it’s easier to show the problem
than to show the solution yeah yeah
here’s a great way to look at it
here on skid row it’s i would say 90 to
95 of these stories of these people came
from homes where dad was in prison mom
was on drugs
and they had no role models they had
nobody to look up to and say wow i’m
going to be like him one day right like
i did right i could i could have been a
doctor a lawyer could have been anything
but you know through my mom i met
somebody was a photographer and it was
like oh my god i want to do that
and i did it
it was easy for me i had great role
models had great opportunities had a
great education
had a stable household
these people had none of that
and until they get that not these people
but their kids or maybe their kids kids
nothing’s going to change so that’s what
has to happen i made an intro to my
channel where i said the government is
the answer but i don’t even know the
government’s going to do it i almost
think you and i have to do it
i’m showing it but i’m not doing it well
i mean that’s that’s one way of doing it
like my job is i i can’t take the
responsibility of helping each of the
four thousand people i’ve interviewed
and if i only
let’s say i help those four thousand
what about the 40 other thousand that
are out here that i didn’t interview
right they don’t they don’t get my help
so so i i can’t possibly help four
thousand anyway so i can create the
awareness like you’re doing of the
problem and perhaps somebody else
can take the job of maybe
helping them get
stable and someone else can help them
with the food and someone else can help
them with education and and as a as a
society we can probably make some
changes it’s not just a money problem
well i mean money is is always
a huge factor in all these kind of
things it’s a complicated complicated
problem and i don’t think it’s an easy
fix and human nature is to go
let’s just find the easy solution to
this person just get a get a job and
stop doing the drugs
it’s a much deeper problem yeah it’s
going to require a lot of
a lot of understanding and that’s what
i’m hoping to do in my videos i think
you’re doing it with yours
and uh and that’ll open up our minds a
little bit and then maybe we can do
something to solve the problem but it’s
not going to be just like oh we just
need to provide housing like like la is
doing is violent down here yeah there’s
people getting killed all the time like
if we if we didn’t have uh c note here
would it be a different story and at
night i wouldn’t want to do this with
you two two white guys walking down here
at night
or you know i’ve had guns pulled on my
face i’ve had
i’ve been i’ve been conned and robbed
every which way you can imagine over the
years i’ve learned how to avoid those
i’ve gotten better at that but
i find these stories fascinating and
interesting i also feel like
if we’re ever going to change it we’re
going to have to understand it
and i’m i’m helping facilitate that i’ve
learned a lot by doing these talks and i
think if you watch my channel
regularly you’ll you’ll learn a lot
about how how things work or how things
are not working a very good friend of
mine who i’ve known for decades she
reminded me when she saw what i was
doing with this channel so
it’s funny because
i remember going out to dinner with you
once and you were at a street corner in
the car we were in traffic and stopped
at a red light and there was a homeless
guy out there panhandling and i just
mumbled underneath my breath like just
get a job
and she reminded me that i said that
and i don’t doubt that i said it i mean
i still have those thoughts today with
some of these people but
when you hear the most horrific stories
you can imagine about their childhood i
had a woman come up to me
and i said you know just you know i’ll
i’ll just kind of have them run through
story a little bit so i get to know what
their story about is before before i
bring them in she was well i was
molested by my dad when i was 10 years
old i had his child when i was 11.
that’s not a good thing
i don’t care how you slice it that’s a
hell of a way for a young girl to grow
up hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of
thousands of dollars trying to fix these
people that are broken
and i don’t even know if that’ll work
i spend every dime i make on this
helping helping people like that but i
think it’s a waste of money ultimately
the real if you really want to make a
difference a lot of this
you really want to make a difference but
that’s what you hear in the background
of my videos all the time if you want to
make a difference i think the way to do
it is to think long term maybe help
their kids or their kids kids and the
way to do that would be
stabilize the the households in in these
poorer communities around the country
not just la i mean i’m talking
nationwide and probably worldwide right
and that’ll help the family stay
together you know why is dad in prison
because he had to do something illegal
to make some money
and why is mom on drugs well she was
probably you know why couldn’t you do
something legal to make money he doesn’t
have an education
he didn’t have any opportunities he
didn’t see any role models of things
that you could do to make money he just
you know you hear my interviews all the
time i just you know
the only thing they ever saw were you
know drug dealers gang members temps and
some kind of if this is your father and
this is what you see as a kid yeah
how are you going to become a doctor or
a lawyer i know it happens
i am sure there are stories where that
has happened but those are those are
the exceptions the oversimplified
solution a super complex issue would be
get the kids basically going hard on the
resources with the kids that that’s
that’s my opinion on how to solve the
problem you can change that cycle and
maybe 20 years you’ll start to see
some results out of that that’s what i
believe but i don’t think that trying to
fix all these poor broken people on the
streets is going to amount to anything
so i don’t i mean i understand these
people need help but but the only people
i’ve seen really help themselves or
really get improve their situation
especially when they’re addicted
are the people who just silently and
quietly did it by themselves
they’ve been a few people that i’ve
interviewed who just disappeared
and i get in touch with them and they
like so what’s going on oh i i went back
chicago where he was from alex one of
the guys i interviewed early on
he got into a program
and he stopped using fentanyl which is
like the hardest drug to stop using
but he did it he didn’t do it because i
gave him a ton of money he didn’t do it
because somebody you know his family
probably helped him i’m sure they did
what’s a d-day a decision-making day
sometimes you just have a
decision-making day where you know what
i either gonna decide to do this or i’m
gonna decide to do this you know i’m
saying a lot of it is you have to change
the way you think you know what i mean
before you can make better decisions
have you ever had a d-day i have d-days
every day every day every day but you’re
selling skid row yeah because my just i
haven’t made a decision to leave here
you know i mean i have to change my
thinking the way i think a little bit
everybody are you scared to be somewhere
else no never but a lot of people are
addicted to the streets yeah they love
it down here you give them an
opportunity to leave you give them
housing you give them a car you give
them a job you get them everything they
need it’s the wildness i’m addicted to
the wildness and they come back here i’m
addicted to the wilderness i can wall
out if i want to if i wall out you know
and and
we say regular land it’s consequences
it’s a lack of responsibility that’s
attractive it’s it’s a freedom it’s the
i don’t have to get up and do anything
today except get my fix and screw off
for a day and that’s that’s every day
and once you’ve been doing that for a
long time then it’s like oh you want me
to get a job and get a haircut and
shower and get dressed and go to work
and all that and pay taxes and all that
[ __ ] that casino is not your typical
person down here because he is a little
more of an upstanding citizen than most
right you do have a roof over your head
you see he’s at one of the hotels here
so i could see a lot of these people if
you put them in a one bedroom in santa
they’re gonna come back they’re gonna
come right back they’re gonna be bored
right right right because it’s like you
know i hear this a lot from the women
that the people that work with uh sex
trafficked women right
and you get them out you protect them
you give them everything they need to
get their lives together and they run
back to their pimp
why would they do that
because they don’t believe they deserve
anything better they don’t have that
sense of being needed
uh there’s that too yeah purpose i have
a family so i have to keep going for
them you know what i mean
i can i can totally all the way yeah i
can totally always give up but then what
that’s gonna do
got you you got kids yes okay how many
nine wow you’re prolific i’ve been
married you know what i’m saying i had
three from my first uh
girlfriend and three for my wife and
like when we was in between those i had
a couple of them
you know what i’m saying so a couple
girlfriends but all of my relationships
come my kids come from long-term
relationships it’s not that obvious
where where are your kids now they’re
down here yeah they’re here okay
they’re not down here
in l.a oh they’re in l.a
so as i said before it’s human nature to
want to oversimplify the solution right
it’s just like just like la is finding
housing for people oh and that’s going
to fix the homelessness problem well the
problem still exists it’s just they’re
in boxes now well technically they’re
they now have a home so it’s
homelessness problem is fixed yeah
that’s right but but these people are
they’re still drug addicted they’re
broken people they’re still
traumatized they’re still not healed
from that
he’s a good guy yeah yeah so i’ve got a
good reputation down here
for a white guy that’s rare um you know
you’re not going to solve these problems
you’re not going to fix
what’s broken in these people with money
or even rehab you see how often people
relapse so there’s no guarantee that
these people will get better if you give
them all the help all the tools they
need to get better but but if you raise
the kids well and you love them and you
you give them the opportunities and the
role models to to live a better life
then most likely they’ll have a better
chance of that but here’s another thing
that that is controversial that i think
about this a lot look at the nature of
our planet the coyote eats the rabbit
the coyote doesn’t eat the rabbit and
have to like think about it and regret
it or feel any guilt it’s going to do it
again tomorrow
you know the hawk eats the
snake and the snake eats the frog and
everybody just
is ruthless and some are winners and
some are losers the lion wins when it
kills the antelope and the antelope
loses that’s the nature of the planet
so i’m why would humans be exempt from
no matter how much you polish humans up
put nice shirts on comb their hair
they still work in those in those ways i
i just think it’s the nature of our of
our planet you know there are people who
are going to
thrive and their kids will go to college
and they’ll have great jobs and the
great opportunities and they’ll live
great lives and there are others that’ll
suffer and never have those chances i
mean you want everyone to win
every kid that you know competes in the
swimmy to get a trophy
well that’s what happened with the
millennials and now look what we got
yeah yeah so it’s an ugly truth but the
truth is some people win and some lose
what keeps you positive because you have
a pretty upbeat positive energy mark
yeah no i mean
i’m eternally
how are the cops down here the cops are
great to me
i love the cops so i’m sure there’s
other people that don’t but but the cops
tend to let people just do whatever they
want you’ll see people smoking on a on a
you know smoking their pookie pipe which
is crystal meth or crack or
you know with a needle right and the
cops roll by they know what’s going on
they’re not they’re not looking to
arrest anybody as long as everyone’s
self-contained down here they’re fine
with it and this is the police station
right here
this is the skid row police station and
here’s there’s drug addicts right here
right across the street doing drugs
right here they’re doing them right here
yeah and they don’t have to hide from it
they’ll do it right open in public you
can’t blame the cops either right what
are they gonna do no no no no no the
cops are just trying to do what they can
you know the jails are all full up
anyway but you’re going to put more
people in there and now there you have
covid and they’ve made the whole problem
so difficult for everyone
all right guys so a little peek into a
world perhaps you don’t know that’s what
i always try to do in these videos is
get you into
a frame of mind a way of seeing things
and perhaps a different way of looking
at the world mark thank you peter you do
a great job thank you thank you an
awesome job thank you you do an amazing
check out mark’s channel soft white
underbelly i’ll leave the links below he
has an amazing ability he’s the only
channel on youtube that i watch oh wow
thank you
amazing way to look into the human
condition uh his cinematography his
questions his all his don’t film that
way don’t forget okay
all in skills there’s a protocol here
our uh
unbelievable uh so it got a little hot
in here guys we actually have to leave
right now
says uh cno right we gotta go yeah all
all right i think the natives get
hostile the natives are getting hostile
we gotta run thanks for coming along
until the next one

If you’re interested in more content from around the WORLD visit these links below:

Be the first to see the next video