Column: Could extreme heat be just what California needs to finally solve homelessness?
For far too long, California has failed to adequately respond to its problems at the state and local levels. The state, for instance, has consistently underfunded vital services, such as housing, while simultaneously overstating costs in housing projects. That has translated into a situation where a disproportionate number of extremely long-term homeless people have been forced to camp in tents or sleep in their cars. The result has been a crisis that has left California with one of the most concentrated and entrenched homeless problems in the nation.
It’s hard to disagree with any policy that could drastically reduce homelessness in California. The issue then becomes, to what extent can the state use the approach it currently adheres to to meet the problem of homelessness in a way that would achieve the goal of reducing the problem to manageable proportions? It’s important to make sure the method used was the most effective approach.
That’s where this issue of extreme heat comes in. The state of California has already seen an increase in extreme heat last year. And the effects of extreme heat play a substantial part in California’s homeless crisis. According to the Department of Housing and Community Development, as many as 60,000 to 70,000 people may have been displaced by extreme heat conditions during the past six months. The effects of extreme heat on homelessness are becoming more evident as the heat worsens in Southern California. But what does extreme heat mean when it comes to homeless people?
The Importance of Extreme Heat in Homelessness
Extreme heat is a phenomenon that can have a significant impact on homeless people as well as those who struggle with homelessness at a broader level. These people use it as a way to cope with homelessness — a way to remain in close touch with relatives, for instance, or find shelter in an emergency encampment for the night if the weather becomes too dangerous. Extreme heat also impacts homeless people psychologically, creating a sense of hopelessness in these people so they can’t think or plan beyond the next day or two. Extreme heat also puts people at a psychological and emotional disadvantage — their ability to sleep becomes compromised, and they