Anticipating El Niño’s storms, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority have opened seven new temporary shelters in addition to their 16 regular winter shelter facilities it already operates.
For months, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), along with teams from other public agencies, have reached out to the homeless, encouraging them to utilize the shelters.
However, in the first week of the storms, the agency reports that the shelters are far from capacity.
“The utilization has been very low and we have significant openings, although we have been doing a very concerted outreach to homeless encampments to encourage people to take advantage of these locations,” said Naomi Goldman, LAHSA spokesperson.
“We received additional funds to open our regular winter shelters earlier, which service 2,000 people, and identified county gymnasiums to handle additional capacity due to the weather. And with the abundance of caution, we opened all the additional facilities.”
Goldman told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that the agency will continue to encourage the homeless to get out of the rain and use the shelters. While she didn’t want to “speculate” as to why the shelters weren’t full despite the wave of storms, she said the agency will continue to outreach.
“Not everyone is ready to accept services and sometimes it takes several efforts to build trust,” she said. “Our goal is for people to come out of the cold and come into a safe warm place to avoid the need for potential rescues, hypothermia, and other illnesses.
“Our emergency response team has been out there and will continue to be out there. There is a steady effort to get [homeless people] to safer ground. This will be a long, dynamic season, and we will all be monitoring and making refinements as this rainy season continues. All of the departments and agencies have been working together for many months. When it comes to planning ahead for a potential crisis, our plans are rolling out as we put all the contingency plans in place,” Goldman said.
Most of LAHSA’s winter shelters, which are located in seven geographical service planning areas throughout the county, opened in November and December.
The additional seven locations that were opened in response to El Niño can temporarily house another 1,131 people, according to the authority. They are not listing the temporary facilities however, because they would like people to utilize the transportation services and not “drop in.”
Goldman said that people can get information on the locations and transportation to reach them by calling 2-1-1 or by going to www.lahsa.org.
Sheriff’s and LAHSA’s officials have been contacting homeless people living in riverbeds and flood-control channels to warn them about the safety issues with the potential for flash floods.
Los Angeles County’s health office has also declared a cold weather alert for mountain areas and the Antelope Valley, where temperatures could drop below freezing. The alert for county mountains will be in effect at least through Friday, Jan. 8.
“Children, the elderly and people with disabilities or special medical needs are especially vulnerable during such cold snaps,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer.
Cold weather precautions include:
— dressing in layers of warm clothing;
— protecting extremities by wearing a hat, scarf and gloves;
— not leaving pets outdoors overnight;
— if outdoor generators are used, placing them at least 10 feet away
from doors and windows to avoid exhaust gases entering the home; and
— installing carbon monoxide detectors.
City News Service contributed to this article.