IIn a small Metrolink parking lot north of Los Angeles, Carla Ohlendorf assembled plastic storm kits containing plastic cutlery, sleeping bags, socks and other items to hand out to people living on the streets Thursday morning. packed into a trolley.
She says her dog Ravi “insisted” on coming with her. Independent.
Kara barely makes it out of the parking lot when she spots someone she knows waving at her. “What happened in the rain?” she asks.
“It’s terrible” and “I was soaking wet and cold as shit” are the responses.
Carla is an outreach worker in an unhoused community in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. Informal teams of volunteers, who often go out to provide supplies bought with their own money to those in need, have been working hard in recent weeks amid the severe storms that have hit California. Activities are being strengthened.
For many of LA’s unhoused population, which numbers in the tens of thousands, the impact was profound and devastating.
Clean-up efforts began across the city on Friday as the storm moved further southeast and sunny blue skies returned. It was clear that some people overcame the extreme conditions much better than others.
“Every time it rains, everything falls apart.”
The man who alerted Carla was 30-year-old Nick, who had been living on the street for three months, but had been experiencing homelessness intermittently for the past year. Wearing a hoodie and thick boots, he graciously accepted a sleeping bag and described how the storm had affected him.
“Every time it rained, everything was destroyed,” he says. “It was as bad as a hurricane.” [Hilary, in August 2023] But it wasn’t that cold. It was stupidly cold. ”
He continues: “The wind broke the poles, so we were a bit busy trying to keep the tent upright. It was raining lightly, but at the same time it was raining heavily. So there were waves.
“I put on three layers of clothing and walked a block away from my house, and I was already soaking wet.”
People really had to hunker down, Nick says. Those who did not properly secure shelter with wooden pallets or tarpaulins quickly learned how catastrophic the situation could be.
“I couldn’t understand what was going on,” says Carla. “It was similar to how your hands swell if you stay in the bathtub too long. I’ve seen it in my own skin, and I’ve seen the same thing in everyone we know. I’ve never had one before.
“Their hands swelled three or four times in size.” [the size] Because it was too soggy. ”
Across the road and about 30 meters from the station, Whitney, 35, sits in her makeshift camp with wet shoes, blankets and books scattered around, left to dry in the sun.
“When it’s raining, you don’t move much. If you get wet…anything you forgot outside the tent will also get wet, and you won’t have a chance to change your clothes,” she says.
“Hypothermia is a serious problem because if you’re homeless, you’re not going to hang out inside a store because people might want to let you out.”
Personal items take a long time to dry, she says, and people are often forced to throw away items they’ve collected over time, some of which have sentimental value.
“It’s really sad because there are so many things you can leave outside, like blankets and comforters, that you can use when you get wet. L.A. isn’t the cleanest city.”
Despite the tragic story of the past few days, the people approaching Carla seem surprisingly rough-and-tumble.
“I would have been like that if I had gotten through that,” Carla says. “I saw one of my friends skipping down the street earlier.” It turned out to be Whitney.
“Here necessity breeds ingenuity.”
On a corner by the subway tracks, Ron is a 37-year-old “architect extraordinaire” putting the finishing touches on a temporary home. He has built several in the past.
He said the shelter consists of a four-wheeled warehouse cart with two pallets on top. The walls are made from two discarded closet doors that Ron found outside a paint store. The roof is made of plywood, the inside is covered with carpet for insulation, and there is enough space to lie down. The structure is waterproofed with vinyl sheeting.
Ron said he worked in the shelter for three or four days, including during the worst of the storm, and slept inside in completely dry conditions.
“this [shelter] It happened suddenly. I had no intention of making it. I just knew how to do it,” he says.
“It’s actually very warm, insulated and small inside, so it’s not really for having a party. But you can invite guests over. There were actually three people staying there yesterday. .”
Ron has been living on the streets for 10 years. “Every day was very eventful, sometimes it was fun, sometimes it wasn’t. I learned a lot and met a lot of people,” he says.
“Like anything in life, there are ups and downs. The only thing you have to do is pay the rent.” On the side of his DIY mobile shelter, he says, “Wherever you go, come home.” I wrote a slogan.
Organizers say it’s time for authorities to listen to the people who are actually experiencing this situation on the streets and work with them to find solutions, rather than demonizing them. ing.
“People here can make emergency preparedness plans and have so many skills and know so many things that other people don’t have to think about,” says Carla. .
“They have so much to offer, so why don’t we learn what people without resources are doing?”
Last weekend, just days before the storm hit, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Association (LAHSA) announced plans to “enhance winter shelter operations” to assist the homeless.
Four additional locations have been allocated across the city: Mid Valley Senior Citizen Center, Lincoln Heights Senior Center, South LA Sports Activity Center and Oakwood Recreation Center in Venice. These provided a total of 291 extra beds.
On Wednesday, the mayor’s office announced that LAHSA had “activated” six more shelters for people experiencing homelessness “in addition to the seven winter shelters previously established.” The exact number of additional beds was not indicated.
But for many in the homeless community, the idea of competing with others for such limited space was heartbreaking. “I don’t have a chance. Honestly, having expectations like that will kill you,” Kara said.
LAHSA also partnered with 211 LA, an organization that provides health, human services, and social services in Los Angeles County. Individuals can call the service to request access to temporary shelter or to arrange transportation during a storm.
However, according to Carla, it was almost impossible to catch anyone.
“I can tell you from our experience that we never talked to an actual human being and we couldn’t let anyone in. We tried for hours every day,” she said. Ta.
Paisley, 31, a fellow organizer who will be accompanying Carla on her route, shares the same sentiments. Like Carla, he lives in an RV he provided to a friend during the storm.
Los Angeles authorities clear homeless camp after storm
“We were able to shore it up with a tarp, so the RV didn’t leak and it was a safe place,” he says.
“And I also have the privilege of having a family with a traditional home, so I actually lent my RV to a friend who lives on the street, so she could seek shelter.” I was able to live in the house for two years.”Weekends.”
“I was watching the news, [where they were] They said, “If you want to evacuate, just call 211,” but in my experience that wasn’t a realistic option.
“Friends I know were trying to access that shelter and were stopped.”
In a statement from 211 LA, it was shared with: independent person “LAHSA is working closely with the City and County of Los Angeles and 211 to shelter approximately 1,000 people experiencing homelessness during the recent storms through the Expanded Winter Shelter Program,” a LAHSA spokesperson said in a statement. I did,” he said.
“Temporary shelters that opened during the storm were always at or near 100% capacity, and regular seasonal winter shelters continued to operate at capacity as well. Motel vouchers as well. I took full advantage of it.
“During recent activations, 211 experienced high call volumes and significant wait times. LAHSA is working with city and county partners and 211 LA, the organization that operates the 211 route, to We plan to identify options to address this capacity issue during the implementation of our expanded winter shelter program.”
A separate statement from the Mayor’s Office added, “During the storm, the Mayor’s Office directly contacted unhoused Angeleno residents and directed them to expanded winter shelters.”
“Hundreds of unhoused Angelenos were able to come off the streets. We changed the way the city approaches emergency shelters. For Angelenos staying in these shelters. In response, service providers are conducting assessments and leading ongoing efforts to provide continuity of services and transitional housing options for everyone who enters the shelter.”
The statement goes on to say, “There are concerns about the specific functionality of 211, and while the Mayor’s Office does not have oversight of 211, we continue to work with LAHSA, the county, and 211 to ensure that 211 is used to protect lives during severe weather events.” “We will ensure that rescue services are available.” .
An ongoing program to carry out a “citywide camp cleanup” has been canceled to give those affected by the rain a “moment” of recovery on the streets, according to non-residential organizer City’s Care+ It is said that it was done.
But on Friday morning, LAPD members and sanitation workers cleared the Whitney encampment during an unannounced sweep. It is not clear who authorized the deletion.
“I understand they are doing the best they can with the resources they have, but I think everyone wants to help the homeless and do more than ask the homeless what they need. Whitney said the day before camp. He was thrown in the trash.
“What happened in the rain?”
Whitney says it’s not difficult for the city to provide real assistance to the homeless community during a storm.
“A lot of times people just throw away their blankets and belongings, which is sad, because if they had a place to come and wash their laundry after it rained, or if they had a place to do it, I wish they had something like a washing machine for the homeless. It would be really, really helpful,” she said.
“[Items such as] Blankets, clothes, things like that. In many cases, there is no need to wash [just] This is to dry them.I don’t want to leave it everywhere [in your camp] Because it will only attract more negative attention. ”
Whitney says she has lost most of her faith in the various programs the city has set up to help the homeless.
Just then, Paisley’s friend Jerry, who had been staying in Paisley’s RV during the storm, arrives, clearly in distress. When he returned to his tent after the rain, all his belongings were gone, Carla said.
“If there’s anything I can do for her, please let me know,” Whitney says.
Kara and Paisley have given away almost everything in their cart, so they head out to get supplies. However, they promise Whitney that they will be back tomorrow.
As they pushed the trolley out, another man came on a bicycle. “Do you have a sleeping bag? We got caught in the rain yesterday,” he says. “Have a nice day, everyone,” the man said as he rode out on his bike, also carrying his bag and hygiene kit.
“What are you doing in the rain?” Carla asks him.
“I didn’t die,” he replied with a smile.