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Housing and Homelessness

As The Heat Intensifies, Advocates Say LA’s Unhoused Need Water

The dark silhouettes of people getting into their car as the sun sets behind them over Los Angeles. The sky is orange and the sun is yellow-white.
Scorching heat waves and a statewide water shortage are making it tougher on the unhoused even as that population grows.
(Frederic J. Brown
/
AFP via Getty Images)
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Southern California’s sweltering heat is increasing the need for water donations to help unhoused Angelenos, advocates say. California suffered its first major heat wave of the year in early June, and temperatures are expected to get hotter.

Complicating matters, these higher temperatures come at a time when some advocates say they’ve seen a drop-off in donations of drinkable water.

Local relief organizations such as Midnight Mission often receive surplus pallets of water from big corporate donors, along with gallon jugs and bottles from individuals. But the recent water shortage means many places don’t even have excess water to parcel out.

"Even if we had all our regular donations ... there still wouldn't be enough with the increased heat and the increased number of people needing help and needing the water," said Georgia Berkovitch, Midnight Mission’s public affairs director.

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Berkovitch says people have been losing their homes faster than those already unhoused can find shelter. And with that comes an even greater need for drinking water. Access to clean water is a chronic issue for the unhoused, as it also affects hygiene and sanitation.

"There are over 200 people who are placed into housing each day, but each day there are more people becoming homeless,” she said.

In 2020, more than 66,000 people were unhoused. The county's latest unhoused population numbers — based on a point-in-time count earlier this year — are set to be released in early September.

Research shows that low-income populations usually bear the brunt of high temperatures, especially unhoused populations who may not have the shelter or mobility to escape extreme heat.

If you want to help, Berkovitch said you can drop off water at the Midnight Mission's office on San Pedro Street or you can donate money on the Midnight Mission website.

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