The dangerous impacts of torrential rainfall across California over the weekend into Monday have already claimed at least two lives in the states as emergency responders work to get people out of harm’s way.
The state’s homeless population accounts for 28 percent of all homeless people living in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and 26 percent of homeless people in California are Black, the University of California San Francisco reported in a 2023 study.
As several photos posted to social media showed, damaged homes and cars pummeled by debris and trees brought down by powerful winds, those without a permanent shelter faced a major threat.
The number of unhoused people in California amounts to more than 181,300, the department reported last year, and the homeless population became even more vulnerable as heavy rain and devastating flooding slammed the state.
On Sunday, emergency crews came to the rescue of unhoused people living in a homeless encampment in San Jose, California, as a nearby river’s rising waters threatened to flood their homeless encampment, The Associated Press reported.
It can be challenging for local authorities to communicate with the unhoused populations ahead of severe weather, as they don’t always have working phones, some members of the population have shared with California media outlets.
This isn’t the first recent storm to place an additional burden on California’s homeless community. Heavy rainfall and flash flooding on Jan. 22 inundated the San Diego area and severely damaged the city’s Alpha Project Bridge Shelter, which was built to house 362 people in need of shelter, the shelter’s staff shared on a GoFundMe page.
The temporary residents were forced to relocate, according to the shelter.
This time around, shelters like Alpha Bridge are continuing to help protect the unhoused communities as the weather threats persist into Tuesday.
The City of Los Angeles announced on Friday that it activated additional shelters and showers ahead of the storm’s impacts. Los Angeles County has over 75,000 unhoused people.
“We are grateful to Mayor Bass for opening Recreation and Park sites for use as shelter in addition to the Augmented Winter Shelter Program during the coming rains,” the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s CEO, Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, said in a news release. “These sites will be critical in our effort to bring people inside safe and keep them dry this weekend.”
The City of San Diego and its Housing Commission opened additional shelter space on Monday as a haven for homeless people needing to escape the inclement weather, City News Service reported.
The city’s shelter bed program, open to families, single adults and children, normally gets activated when low temperatures dip below 45 degrees, when there’s a 40 percent chance of rain forecast, or when over an inch of rain is expected within 24 hours.
People Assisting The Homeless, a 40-year-old organization based in California, said on X, formerly Twitter, that they are also working to get at-risk unhoused people to safety and shelter amid the ongoing severe storm.