When Victor Hinderliter was driving home in a mild drizzle last month, it dawned on him.
“The rain started coming down and I just thought, 'Oh no. This was not on my radar for tonight,' ” says Hinderliter, associate director of Homeless Services for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).
Hinderliter still had his mind on recent wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes and burned out several homeless encampments last month. The focus of LAHSA street outreach teams now shifts to potentially dangerous winter weather.
“We have to be thinking about the freezing temperatures in Lancaster and in Pomona,” says Hinderliter. “And then we need to be thinking about the rain downtown and how all of these different weather events are going to impact people differently.”
L.A. County has opened more than a dozen temporary winter shelters, with about 1,500 beds. Hinderliter says the shelters give LAHSA outreach workers a chance to offer services to people who can otherwise be hard to reach and track at a time when there isn't enough supportive housing to shelter the county's surging homeless population.
“Unless there are 57,000 vacant affordable housing units right now that we can be moving people into, part of the discussion does have to be, 'How are we going to provide resources so that the folks camping outdoors can be good neighbors?' ” says Hinderliter. "Being as safe as possible during the time we’re transitioning them to permanent housing."
Volunteers will fan out across Los Angeles County later this month for the region’s annual homeless count.
Results of the count are tied to the amount of federal dollars that cities and counties receive to combat homelessness.
Last year’s tally showed a 23 percent spike in the number of people living on the streets and in the foothills, canyons and river bottoms of L.A. County.