Four outdoor cooling centers will be added in Skid Row to protect unhoused residents of the area from the brutal impacts of historic heat.
The hope is that this pilot project will serve as a model for other areas where there are few or no structures or services dedicated to meeting the needs of the public as climate change continues to endanger those most exposed to the elements.
Skid Row Cooling Resources offers relief via misting tents, drinking water, ice, popsicles, and sunscreen. Working with partners that include the City of Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti’s Office, Council District 14, and LADWP, Skid Row Cooling Resources is introducing a dual use of fire hydrants that are attached to a mechanism sending water to both the filtered water bar for drinking and to pipes in a canopy to provide cooling mist.
The cooling centers are accessible 16 hours daily and are operated by Homeless Health Care Los Angeles with Urban Alchemy providing the staffing component, who also offer safety and referrals for the community.
Coalition member and Environmental Attorney Lisa Kaas Boyle worked to ensure the model relies primarily on tap water instead of plastic bottled water.
“Water is a human right recognized by international law and California law, yet so many people, especially those experiencing homelessness, have no access to drinking water. This is especially dangerous during heat waves when people can die from dehydration. Concerns about plastic pollution, water shortages and the economic and health impacts of plastic bottled water are triggering a revival of tap water service in the public realm, as evidenced by LADWP’s new Hydration Station Implementation Program that will create permanent solutions to the pressing need for water. In the meantime, Skid Row Cooling Resources is meeting the demand for water in the most sustainable manner possible.”
Coalition member Katherine McNenny envisions the development of a more robust tree canopy in the Skid Row area as a long term cooling asset.
“Unfortunately, none of the City-backed tree-planting initiatives and programs work for Skid Row, let alone Downtown. This community is going to need a special initiative in order to increase its tree canopy that allows for larger trees and extended after-care. Until that happens, “Cooling Resources” meets a critical need.”
Coalition member Tom Grode recalls that bringing green back to the urban area is using the wisdom of the native population who lived here before the concrete:
“A Land Acknowledgment recognizes and respects the indigenous peoples and their wisdom with the Land. A Land Acknowledgment can also recognize and respect Mother Earth, and in this context of a changing climate, engage the kindness and compassion of Mother Earth.”
Permanent relief from exposure to the elements should be offered year round through the placement of additional Refresh Spots to take the pressure off the sole facility operating on Skid Row and meet the expanding needs of the homeless population on Skid Row.
Stephany Campos, Executive Director of The Refresh Spot says,
“The ReFresh Spot is just one facility that offers 6 showers and 7 restrooms to a Skid Row population of over 5,000. There should be at least four or five more permanent spaces like this throughout the area that are invested in and properly maintained.”
The refresh spot is a model that could be replicated not only on Skid Row, but elsewhere in Los Angeles County to meet the needs of the 66 thousand people experiencing homelessness in the County.