Giving Compass' Take:

• As heatwaves rage in Los Angeles, homeless individuals are avoiding cooling centers for fear of getting their belongings stolen and exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

• How can local communities help address these issues? How does climate change disproportionately impact homeless populations? 

• Read more about helping the homeless during the summer heatwaves. 

Theodore Henderson has experienced lots of heat waves during the seven years that he’s been homeless in Los Angeles. But when temperatures hit 97 degrees F in Los Angeles County earlier this month, Henderson’s usual coping strategy was unavailable. In previous years, Henderson would have gone to a nearby library to get out of the sun and enjoy some air-conditioned relief, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, all the city’s public libraries are closed.

Heat waves are the deadliest weather-related event to hit cities every year, killing on average 702 people annually nationwide, and their impact will only worsen with climate change. For the nation’s 568,000 homeless people, 66,000 of whom live in Los Angeles County, the heatwave is adding to the challenges of a population already vulnerable to the crises of COVID-19, climate change, and police brutality.

Cities nationwide, including L.A. as well as Boston, New York, and San Francisco, open cooling centers — public spaces where people can access air conditioning — to mitigate the health impacts of heat waves for populations without access to air conditioning, including (in theory, at least) the unsheltered homeless community. With the pandemic, cooling centers in many of these cities, including L.A., are operating at reduced capacity to promote social distancing. In L.A., there are only four cooling centers run by the city, and 13 run by the county. But despite the slashed capacity of the cooling centers, Rose Watson, the director of public information at L.A.’s Department of Recreation and Parks, said that not a single one has been filled during the current heatwave.

Read the full article about cooling centers by Alexandria Herr at Grist.