It used to be in the “good” old days that winter shelters would be set in armories, churches and abandoned buildings to help those who were homeless avoid the cold nights on the streets. Now there are only 143 spots for the more than 60,000 people on the streets.
A man was found unresponsive because of hypothermia on a bus bench on Pacific Coast Highway on November 4. Paramedics transported him to a hospital. The gallon jug of gasoline next to him was kept by firefighters.
He is just one of many who have nowhere to go to keep warm in the cold weather. Many of those homeless have been responsible for warming fires in Pacific Palisades. Those fires often get out of control and burn up the hillsides threatening hillside homes above the brush, such as the fire on October 8, that burned below Corona del Mar.
Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness co-president Sharon Kilbride was asked by CTN why people aren’t placed in shelters on cold nights.
In a letter to City and County officials, obtained by Circling the News, Kilbride wrote: It seems pretty crazy that we have 69,000 homeless people and very few winter shelters in the city. We don’t have any on the Westside.
“These are questions that need to be addressed and we need answers why we are leaving people suffer on our streets during cold and rainy months.
“Warming fires will be more prevalent in our hillsides and our streets to keep warm,” Kilbride said. “You would think it would be a lot more cost effective to have winter shelters in place. People need to stay warm rather than LAFD having to put out fires and not to mention the destruction of property and community safety issues.”
CTN emailed L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. Her media spokesperson Barbara Osborn responded with a November 1 press release from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority “Reimagined Winter Shelter Program Now Open in L.A. County.”
The winter shelter program is open from November 1 through March 31.
There are five locations (Lancaster, Whittier, and in Los Angeles Western Avenue, 25th Street and West View Street) that have room for 143 people.
LAHSA wrote “we are re-envisioning the Augmented Winter Shelter Program to ensure that we focus resources where our unsheltered neighbors need them most.”
What does that mean? If a severe weather event is declared, emergency hotel vouchers can be deployed to the regions of the county that are experiencing the severe weather event.
The new program will provide 142 motel vouchers per day for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the city of Los Angeles and 367 motel vouchers per day for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness across the rest of Los Angeles County during periods of inclement weather.
Hotel rooms will be available when:
- The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast calls for three (3) days of low daytime temperatures accompanied by night wind chill temperatures of 32 degrees or less.
- The forecast calls for 1 inch of rain in 24 hours.
- The forecast calls for three (3) consecutive days of 1-4 inches of rain or more accompanied by temperatures at or below 50 degrees.
Almost 70,000 homeless – and if it’s cold enough – there are exactly 652 places they might be able to go. Otherwise, there is only 143 spots in the City on a “good” day in the winter.
Candidates running for mayor, Rick Caruso and Karen Bass, were contacted about the lack of winter shelters. So were Councilmember candidates Erin Darling and Traci Park.
Darling said, “Whether it’s a lack of in-district winter shelters or a dearth of cooling centers in the summer, it seems like every year the City and its partners are caught flat-footed by totally predictable, seasonal weather events.
“As Councilmember, my office will work with LAHSA, RAP and other agencies year-round to make sure we’re ready to get people inside when the elements become dangerous,” Darling said.
Park said, “Once again, LAHSA has failed to open any winter shelters in CD-11 or SPA 5 and offers no transportation for unhoused people to the handful of winter shelters they have opened across LA County.
“Despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars annually, they’ve only opened a total of five centers (one of which is all the way out in Antelope Valley) with a total of 143 beds, substantially fewer than the 264 beds offered last year,” Park said. “With the homeless population in LA County totaling nearly 70,000 people, this effort seems dismal at best. And, with temperatures dropping, warming fires will only become more common. This creates a broader public safety risk, especially in our dry hillside and canyon communities. It continues to astound me that those responsible for providing shelter and housing fail to act with the urgency this crisis demands.”
If Caruso or Bass responds, we’ll update this story.