How was the region’s response to the homeless during Tropical Storm Hilary? – Daily News

Emergency shelters to house the homeless in Los Angeles during Tropical Storm Hilary will shut down Wednesday morning, Aug. 23, but anyone sheltering at one of the temporary sites will be offered another place to stay through the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s regular interim housing program, according to the regional agency.

In response to the area’s first tropical storm in more than 80 years, LAHSA, in coordination with the city and county of Los Angeles and local service providers, opened 10 temporary emergency shelters and made available 622 beds for individuals seeking respite from the heavy winds and rain. A total of 312 people sought shelter at these sites, LAHSA reported Monday evening.

In addition, more than 200 motel vouchers were provided to families and individuals over the weekend. In total, 374 individuals and 140 families were brought inside to emergency shelters or provided with motel vouchers, according to LAHSA.

“LA’s rehousing community came together over the last few days to save the lives of hundreds of people in flood-prone areas from the severe rain that Tropical Storm Hilary brought to our region,” LAHSA CEO Va Lecia Adams Kellum said in a statement, thanking city and county elected officials for providing resources.

“I also want to give a special thank you to all of the outreach teams and first responders who worked overtime and visited dangerous areas to help our unsheltered neighbors move to safety,” Adams Kellum added.

So far, there have been no confirmed deaths related to the storm, which dumped record amounts of rain throughout the region. LAHSA’s acting chief program officer, Nathaniel VerGow, credited outreach teams deployed by LAHSA and nonprofit organizations that made contact with individuals living on the streets ahead of the storm to encourage them to move indoors during the major weather event.

LAHSA initially targeted unhoused individuals living near rivers, dams and other high-risk areas prone to flooding or mudslides, and began its outreach efforts on Thursday, before the storm reached Southern California over the weekend.

“It’s been a good five or six years now that we’ve been doing this work to ensure that folks get noticed in advance of heavy rainstorms,” he said in an interview.

Still, some homeless advocates are criticizing the local government’s response to Tropical Storm Hilary.

Eleanor Batista-Malat, a volunteer with Ktown for All, a grassroots group that advocates for the homeless community in L.A.’s Koreatown, said city and county officials or local government agencies should have done a better job communicating their plans to the public – and sooner.

Batista-Malat said volunteers from her organization began their usual Saturday morning outreach to the homeless community – which involves providing water and other supplies to the unhoused – but it wasn’t until after noon that her organization received details about where people could seek emergency shelter. Additionally, she was unaware that transportation to the shelters was an option.

Had such information been provided to Ktown for All sooner, it could have been relayed to those living on the street whom her organization connected with earlier in the day, she said.

“We need lead time to communicate with people,” she said, adding that while some unhoused people were aware of the storm’s approach, others had not heard the news.

And while LAHSA initially focused its outreach efforts in areas considered at higher risk of flooding, Batista-Malat said rain can be dangerous for unhoused people regardless of location. There were reports on Monday, after Tropical Storm Hilary had passed, of people in the homeless community who were still soaking wet, with no place to dry off, she said.

“Any big rain storm, we take seriously as people who do outreach,” she said.

VerGow said he believes LAHSA has improved its handling of emergencies over the years but welcomes critical feedback.

“We appreciate critical feedback so that we can try to learn from anything that may be … (an) oversight and adjust and pivot and improve,” he said.

Some activists also criticized the city’s response.

“Folks from Skid Row … cleared storm drains to minimize and prevent flooding. It begs the question: with the enormous amount of resources going towards Care and Care + street cleaning, why was no team deployed to clear drains in a known floodplain?” Pete White, executive director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network wrote in a text message. CARE and CARE+ are part of the city’s homeless encampment cleanup program.

Mayor Karen Bass’ office referred questions about whether storm drains around skid row were cleared ahead of the storm to the city’s public works department, which was unable to provide a response by deadline. People living in downtown L.A.’s skid row – the epicenter of the region’s homelessness crisis – were flooded out of their tents in 2019 because of a major storm.

The mayor’s office did issue a statement Monday, saying that the temporary shelters that were set up around the city “protected Angelenos from the storm’s impacts.”

“The City has opened the most emergency temporary shelters for unhoused Angelenos experiencing homelessness to provide relief from extreme weather since at least 2020,” Bass’ office said.

Meanwhile, at least one service provider involved with the emergency operations praised the overall response from local government agencies.

Ken Craft, CEO of Hope the Mission, said he wishes there had been more time to notify people living on the streets about the approaching storm and their shelter options. That said, he called the collaboration between government agencies, service providers and other nonprofits who donated supplies “an amazing effort” and said that outreach workers logged long hours.

Craft also acknowledged the challenge of convincing people to leave their encampments to move into a temporary shelter. With more than 46,000 homeless people within the city of L.A. – a number that jumps to over 75,000 countywide – the number of unhoused individuals who took up the offer for emergency storm shelter was miniscule.

“People are very reluctant to leave what belongings they have behind because it’s a major ordeal to tear down your entire belongings and to haul them only to find out (it’s temporary),” Craft said. “I think there’s a bit of reticence to make that kind of transition. The best we can do is offer.”

LA Metro also played a role in moving the unhoused from trains, buses and stations into shelters during Tropical Storm Hilary.

LA Metro personnel assisted 158 people experiencing homelessness on Sunday and Monday. Ten were handed motel vouchers, 143 were placed in emergency shelters and five were reunited with their families, according to LA Metro spokesperson Patrick Chandler.

VerGow, of LAHSA, said he’s grateful to all who stepped up to respond to this weekend’s historic storm and that LAHSA plans to meet with other local government agencies in the near future to discuss how the region’s response to emergencies can be further fine-tuned going forward.

“We will be doing a thorough debrief internally and with our partners at the city and the county over the coming weeks to fully evaluate any missed opportunity and document and ensure that we are better prepared for the next emergency,” VerGow said.

Staff writer Steve Scauzillo contributed to this report.



Denial of responsibility! My Droll is an automatic aggregator of Global media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, and all materials to their authors. For any complaint, please reach us at – [email protected]. We will take necessary action within 24 hours.
DMCA compliant image

Leave a Comment