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Housing and Homelessness

'It Feels Like We Are In A Desert': How The Heatwave Is Hitting Unhoused Angelenos

An image of a hazy downtown L.A. with a view of several skyscrapers and palm trees along the road.
L.A. city and county will not have cooling stations open for unhoused people, but the city is promoting the use of libraries, recreation centers and public places to beat the heat.
(Alborz Kamalizad
/
LAist)
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There’s a heat advisory in place until Friday evening in Los Angeles and temperatures are sweltering across the region, leaving many people experiencing homelessness figuring out ways to try and beat the heat.

Christy, a woman experiencing homelessness who only felt comfortable using her first name, was inside a tent downtown on Thursday morning. It was already 76 degrees.

“Hell yeah, we’re hot right now,” she said, adding that the inside of tents are the worst place to be in a heatwave. “You just find a local public place where people are allowed to, like, hang out at. Like a library or a Starbucks, or something.”

Christy, 25, said she’s experienced homelessness on and off since she was 18 and these heat waves are nothing new. She said places like Starbucks are typically welcoming and she’s happy it’s available when the heat is unbearable.

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“It’s just as bad as you can imagine,” she said. “It feels like we are in a desert. You feel so uncomfortable, you just want to freshen up.”

A big contributor to the discomfort is a lack of shade normally provided by trees. Neighborhoods like Downtown that have fewer trees can be 10 degrees warmer than surrounding areas. Poor and people of color are disproportionately impacted.

L.A. City Councilmember Kevin de León broke ground Monday on a nearly $19 million corridor project in Downtown that will overhaul the 7th Street corridor, starting from San Pedro Street in Skid Row and ending at Figueroa Street. The project includes new streetscaping for trees.

A spokesperson for de León, who represents a large portion of Downtown, said neither the city nor county of L.A. will have cooling stations open during this brief heatwave. Public agencies are promoting the use of libraries, recreation centers and public spaces to find relief.

People experiencing homelessness are more vulnerable to death due to heat-related exposure. The city’s Emergency Management Dept. is holding a meeting next week to discuss the Adverse Weather Plan.

LAist asked an unhoused man walking in downtown how he planned on beating the heat. He laughed and said, “I’m not, just gonna deal with it.”