LOS ANGELES — On the first day of 2022, Juan Carlos Castro was busy cleaning up the previous year’s mess.
A series of record-breaking storms pushed mud onto his front steps and debris into his gutter.
What You Need To Know
- A Los Angeles area homeless encampment stayed dry during recent storms by placing tents on pallets
- Antifascist activist Chad Loder piloted the idea and shared it with their 100,000 Twitter followers
- Loder is also well known for outing Southern Californians who attended the Jan. 6 insurrection
"It sucks," Castro said as he smoothed the trench he’s dug around his Los Angeles encampment. "I love the rain, but the mud destroys everything."
In recent weeks, the weather has brought all the right conditions for hypothermia.
"It creates a lot of stress for a lot of people," Castro said. "A lot of people are elderly here."
Luckily for Castro, his encampment has recently gotten a lift — pallet platforms that keep the floors dry and his tent downright cozy. During the recent storms, the water under his tent rose a few inches but never reached the top of the pallet. When Castro emerged the next day, he said his tent was an island in a puddle.
The "uplifting" idea came from Chad Loder, a non-binary antifascist organizer who has been getting to know Castro and his neighbors for the past two years. They recently shared the pallet idea to their more-than-100,000 Twitter followers.
"Someone asked, 'Aren’t you normalizing people livening in tents?' And I said, 'We’re normalizing people staying alive.' This is the monsoon season. More people die of exposure in the streets of LA every year than in New York City and Chicago combined," said Loder.
Loder is well known for outing Southern Californians who attended the Jan. 6 insurrection and currently faces physical threats and lawsuits over their work online. Helping the homeless is a part of their activism that receives far less attention. Standing in the rain at the encampment, Loder was mostly concerned that the city removed the sole dumpster.
“We don’t have to view everything through the lens of antifascism, although this is what antifascists do when we’re not at public rallies and things like that,” Loder said.
Castro spiraled into homelessness after losing the love of his life.
“I was in a relationship for 14 years, and then she passed away,” he said.
After four years in a tent, 2022 could be a fresh start. Castro is transitioning into a pallet shelter at a nearby village run by the Salvation Army. The organization is helping him get his GED and, hopefully, an apartment of his own.
“Nobody gives you a manual on how to go through this,” he said.
Until then, Castro is focused on taking care of what he has in the encampment he calls home.