“You’re gonna wake up soaking wet.” The homeless struggle to keep dry and warm as storms and chilling temperatures plunge in Los Angeles County, as the rainy season begins before many winter homeless shelters open.
Many Homeless Are Wet During the Rainy Season
While many Angelinos cozy up during L.A.’s winter with a hot chocolate next to a warm crackling fireplace, this is far from the reality for those living outside facing the rainy, frigid temperatures during the stormy season.
Walter Smith told the L.A. Times about the harsh realities he faces being homeless. “If you don’t wake up before the rain comes down hard, you’re gonna wake up soaking wet,” he said. He also mentioning how he “can’t find a way to waterproof a tent.”
Smith is not alone, tens of thousands struggle to stay warm and dry throughout the country. The Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA)’s yearly winter shelter program is still not opening its doors.
LAHSA spokesman Ahmad Chapman says, “due to funding constraints, that program doesn’t open until Dec. 1.”
Contradicting Stats: Fewer Beds or More Beds?
“The number of emergency beds for our homeless neighbors has increased each year for the last three years,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s spokesman Alex Comisar told the Times, “and we’re doing more outreach than ever before to bring people inside during inclement weather.”
But LA county has up to 21 percent fewer beds this year for the winter shelter program, according to LAHSA.
$619 Million Spent On Homelessness in 2018: Where Are the Funds Going?
Just this past year, LA residents voted on a measure to tax themselves and increase funds for homeless services.
Measure HHH is a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund 10,000 units of permanent housing for the homeless. And in 2018, $120 million went to interim-housing.
Phil Ansell, director of the County of Los Angeles Homeless Initiative, told Capital & Main, “the goal of the bill is to supply existing homeless shelters with over 3,000-year-round shelter beds and move the homeless into permanent housing.”
However, the current remedy towards alleviating many off the street is not making a dent. Over 75 percent of L.A. County’s homeless are unsheltered and exposed the wet, cold, and windy weather.
Homeless Die From Hypothermia
Those being turned away is alarming because more die from hypothermia in L.A. than in New York City and San Francisco combined. That’s because hypothermia can set in at temperatures as high as 50 degrees, experts say.
Capital & Main says, “seven of 10 homeless hyperthermia deaths occur in December or January.” And the majority being men between their 50s and 60s.
According to the coroner’s office, 13 people died in the past three years.
“Many people experiencing homelessness suffer from malnutrition and sleep deprivation, leading to some of them remaining out in the cold. Ultimately, sometimes they die,” Bobby Watts, the homeless council’s chief executive told the Times.
Will Jeff Bezos’s Donation of $98 Million Help Homelessness?
Below is a list of the four organizations who received donations:
- Pathways of Hope, Fullerton, CA • $2.5 million
- St. Joseph Center, Venice, CA • $5 million
- The Whole Child, Whittier, CA • $5 million
- Upward Bound House, Santa Monica, CA • $1.25 million
According to Bezos, the charity’s vision “comes from the inspiring Mary’s Place in Seattle: no child sleeps outside.”
In 2017, Amazon and Mary’s Place partnered-up to build a 200-bed homeless shelter set to open in 2020. Creating 65 rooms, which will house over 200 people each night.