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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
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L.A. Plans For New Shelters Ahead Of Wet Winter

The city of Los Angeles is taking steps to prepare the homeless for the extreme conditions of El Nino.

The city of Los Angeles is preparing to help the homeless deal with the major rains expected during the El Nino this year. It is in the process of creating detailed maps of Los Angeles to identify the areas that have been prone to flooding in previous years. Once the city identifies the areas, they can create new shelters to add to the existing shelters.

Los Angeles officials hope that these new shelters will provide housing for anyone that may need a place to stay. Chris Ipsen, L.A. Emergency Management Coordinator, says the number of shelters they are opening is unknown, but “as soon we hear of any pending storm, we’re going to activate the center.” The city is working closely with meteorologists to open the shelters at least 48 hours ahead of a big storm.

Sitting outside on a curb, Barbara King thinks the city’s efforts are failing the homeless. She is very worried because the impending storms mean it’s going to be very cold. When asked about whether she would go to one of the new shelters, she said she would but she added that existing shelters are very hard to get into. Some require a social security number to confirm identities, something King says she doesn't have.

Then, it becomes a gender issue. Only a certain number of women are allowed in and, she explains, sixty women try to get in, but they only accept forty. Then those people have nowhere to go.

For the past four years, California has been subject to La Nina, when ocean waters cool and the land becomes drier, sometimes characterized by a drought. In March and May 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center forecast weak El Nino conditions in California. El Nino, which last hit in 2008, is a recurring event caused by warm ocean waters that develop in the Pacific Ocean. It causes over-precipitation in coastal and inland areas. El Nino events have been more frequent since 1960 and more severe conditions are often attributed to global warming. 

El Nino doesn’t just affect the homeless. Ipsen says people should be concerned about possible mudslides in the hills and at former burn sites where the ground is now exposed. He warns that trash pick-up could be stopped in flooded communities to prevent debris from clogging storm drains. He recommends people clean out their rain gutters and be aware of where the flood channels are. Ipsen encourages the public to take action now and stay up-to-date at

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