When It Rains, How Can You Help Your Unhoused Neighbors?


January 19, 2021

Despite LA’s “mild” climate, hypothermia leads to more deaths among unhoused people in our city than in NYC and SF combined. 

With more rain forecasted for this week and next, what can we do to avoid more tragic and preventable deaths?

More people die of exposure in LA than in colder regions due to a simple fact: we have the most unhoused people living outdoors in the country. In addition, hypothermia can set in at temps as high as 50°. And wet clothing intensifies heat loss twentyfold. 

During the last freezing rains, many nonprofit and mutual aid groups hosted drives for socks, gloves, hats, sleeping bags, and tarps to keep our unhoused neighbors safe and dry.

You can donate money or requested items to a number of orgs compiled here.

Another way you can help when it rains is to assist at-risk unhoused people in accessing LAHSA’s Winter Shelter program, which operates around LA County from Oct. 1 to March 31.

For a full list of Winter Shelters and how to access them, click here.

All Winter Shelters welcome pets and emotional support animals, but limit belongings to 2 bags per person.

To have access, you must be 18 or older and be experiencing homelessness. You also must call ahead to check availability.

During our last rainstorm, regular Winter Shelters were close to capacity, but most still had a few beds. There are also Augmented Winter Shelter sites, which are activated by daytime temperature highs below 50 degrees, nighttime lows below 40 degrees, and/ or heavy rainfall.

One gap that currently exists in LA’s Winter Shelter system is transportation. Unhoused residents looking to get out of the rain often lack the ability to transverse the city and access shelters. And only a handful of shelters offer pick up points and transportation.

Our office will be providing funds for outreach workers to utilize rideshares on behalf of unhoused people seeking shelter. Looking ahead, I’m eager to explore how the City’s fleet of vehicles might be better employed to address this need.

Hypothermia deaths represent only a small fraction of our city’s yearly unhoused death toll, which numbered 1,383 people in 2020 -- up 32% from the year prior. But no one in our city should die of something so simultaneously horrible and preventable.

To volunteer on behalf of your unhoused neighbors, these Valley orgs -- LA Family Housing and NoHo Home Alliance -- are both doing incredible work. 

For more info on LAHSA’s Winter Shelter program, you can call their hotline 1-800-548-6047 or click here.


See the original Twitter thread here