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Homeless Woman Dies On Skid Row During El Niño Storm

Skid Row (Photo by shabdro photo via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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A homeless woman living on Skid Row is believed to be Los Angeles' first victim of this winter's El Niño storms. On Friday night, a 70-year-old woman was found dead underneath a tarp on Stanford Avenue just south of East 6th Street. "The investigation revealed that she had been exposed to the rain elements overnight," LAPD officer Norma Eisenman told KPCC. "Her clothing was wet, and her body was cold and damp." Her official cause of death was determined to be hypothermia.

Authorities say she had refused offers of shelter from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in the days before she died.

Friends identified the woman as Barbara Brown, a longtime resident of Skid Row who had mental health and alcohol issues. Skid Row resident Deacon Alexander told the L.A. Times he called police on Thursday afternoon to get Brown off the street, but officials said there was nothing they could do without her cooperation. Alexander said he threw a blanket on her the day she died.

"We cannot force her to leave or seek shelter," LAPD Captain Mike Oreb told the Times. "We can only encourage to seek shelter."

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Last week a grand jury found cities in Los Angeles County unprepared to protect the homeless population during heavy winter storms and called the situation "unconscionable and grossly inadequate."

In response to Brown's death, Mayor Eric Garcetti's office said in a statement to the Times they were "exploring what we can do to help those who refuse assistance. The Mayor's priority is keeping all Angelenos safe during this storm season and he is urgently doing everything he can to prevent these tragedies from occurring."