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Los Angeles steps up efforts to protect homeless population during stormy El Nino season

By By Katy Galimberti, Staff Writer
January 29, 2016, 12:04:36 AM EST

The Los Angeles homeless population has already seen a taste of what a strong El Niño season can bring.

One woman died due of exposure in early January during the storms that caused flooding throughout parts of the city. She refused shelter when offered by the Los Angeles Police Department, the LA Times reported.

The 60-year-old was later found wrapped in a wet blanket on top of a plastic tarp on skid row, police said.


Drenching rain across the region led to mudslides and flooding near homeless encampments along the Los Angeles River. With roughly 44,000 living on the streets in Los Angeles County, a persistent stormy pattern, due in part by El Niño, has raised safety concerns for those in vulnerable areas.

Along with the other shelters that operate all year, seven additional shelters will open during "the most severe El Niño rainy winter weather days," according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. The shelters will have the capacity to serve more than 1,100 people and will operate until March.

The shelters will be open 24 hours on "extreme" days, they said.

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While officials will patrol areas warning people of potentially dangerous storms, there is not an official program in place to bring people in against their will.

After subfreezing temperatures in New York City early in the month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order allowing police to move at-risk individuals into shelters when the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.


Police in Los Angeles are able to temporarily move people to shelter without their consent, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in January, but no official order is in place.

However, Garcetti said the city has "triple the number of outreach teams" to contact the homeless, especially in areas near the river where swiftwater rescues have taken place during flooding events.

“People who are living there think they are safe, and they are not,” Garcetti said.

While efforts have ramped up, the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury says it is not enough.

"The CGJ believes this situation is unconscionable and grossly inadequate," they said in a press release.

After consulting with 22 large cities around the world, they said insufficient funding will lead to a lack of supplies and shelter resources when the rains intensify.

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