LOS ANGELES — With temperatures in Los Angeles dropping into the 40s for several consecutive nights, much of the city’s homeless population has had to endure the cold weather out on the streets.  

What You Need To Know

  • Overnight temperatures have been dropping into the low 40s

  • At least 14 homeless people died in LA of hypothermia in 2021

  • Mutual aid groups and nonprofit organizations are helping homeless people survive the weather 

  • There are over 46,000 homeless people in the city of LA 

Larry Rust is one of the over 46,000 homeless people in the city of LA, and he said the recent cold weather has made life especially difficult for him and his neighbors. 

“Right now it’s like 49 degrees. We’re going into lower weather than that. That’s freezing temperature weather. We are freezing out here,” Rust said.

In 2021, at least 14 homeless people died of hypothermia in LA. 

To protect homeless people from inclement weather, the city established the Winter Shelter Program, which typically provides only a few hundred beds across LA, but when temperatures dip below 50 degrees, they also provide motel vouchers to some additional homeless people who request them. Rust said he has attempted to access those services, but has yet to receive word whether he will be able to. In the meantime, he depends on the help of his neighbors. 

“We might die out here without some of their help. They bring us blankets, they bring us tents, water, food, snacks, supplies. If it wasn’t for some of those days of them bringing us some food, I wouldn’t have made it to the next day,” Rust said. 

Neil Blakemore is one of those neighbors. He is a mutual aid organizer with LA Street Care and Mutual Aid and he said the work people like him do is essential to keeping homeless people safe.

“Mutual aid groups, how I like to describe it, is we are neighbors helping neighbors. It’s how poor people have survived for as long as there have been poor people. What we do is fill a lot of gaps that city services either can’t or won’t provide. So, we’ll do clothing drives and provide warm clothes for people. We bring out emergency blankets, they’re Mylar, so they trap 90% of body heat,” Blakemore said.

And mutual aid groups are not the only ones helping out. Nonprofit organizations such as The Midnight Mission in Skid Row are also doing what they can to help homeless people get through the harsh weather, according to the organization’s Chief Communications Officer Georgia Berkovich.

“When the temperature dips below 50 degrees, we open our cafeteria so people can come inside and stay warm. Now, when people are out here in the courtyard, we’ve got heaters set up, we’ve got restrooms that are open 24/7. We serve coffee and snacks and try to keep people warm and safe,” Berkovich said.

In addition to those resources, The Midnight Mission also regularly provides homeless people with job training, education, emergency services, family living and workforce development programs to help foster self-sufficiency. 

While some people are able to take advantage of weather resources provided by organizations like The Midnight Mission, many homeless people like Rust continue spending their nights outside in bitterly cold conditions. 

“We are not getting the help we need. We need help out here. This is survive or not survive, live or not live. I definitely am trying to make it through this and live,” Rust said.

Rust is hoping to make it through the winter, and he said he’s incredibly grateful for the mutual aid groups and nonprofit organizations that have stepped up to provide the resources that will help him do so.