Rainy forecast raises concern for homeless in LA County; some take warnings lightly – Daily News

on Nov20
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Barron Perry, who lives next to Encino Creek at the Sepulveda Basin, said he was ready for the rain that was expected to start falling late Tuesday night, Nov 19. It’s easier to manage, he said, than any of the wildfires that have ravaged the hillsides around the Los Angeles region.

After the rains, “you can always get dry,” he said.

True, there had been a bit of “excitement” at the Sepulveda Basin earlier this year, when the waters rose up all around his tent and he ran to move to higher ground. He also lost a few of his belongings.

But he pointed toward a spot below his current tent, and said that was where the water reached last time. This time, things might turn out a little better.

Forecasters called for brief but heavy bursts of rain Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, bringing up to three quarters of an inch of rain in what was expected to be the season’s first significant storm. The National Weather Service didn’t expect the rain to spur mud slides or debris flows in areas stripped bare by recent wildfires — unless thunderstorm cut loose with more rain than anticipated, said Oxnard-based NWS meteorologist Rich Thompson.

Nonetheless, the forecast raised concern for Los Angeles County’s burgeoning population of homeless people, many of whom have already endured the season cycle of last winter’s torrents, followed by summer’s triple-digit heat heat, and finally the relentless Santa Ana-fueled wildfires of recent weeks.

With rain on the way, Perry said he may move back onto the sidewalks. But the drawbacks of doing that include being an “eyesore” to the people who pass by.

“I’m pretty sure people will not want to see people like us,” he said. “Here you can be a little bit more secluded.”

If the weather forecast worsens, Perry said he may have to move back to the streets in Van Nuys, where he had stayed after being released from prison. It is where the parole office he has been assigned to is located. Originally from another part of Los Angeles, Perry said he found he liked it better in the Valley.

“It’s mellower out here,” he said.

But for the moment, he was more preoccupied with getting his his bike fixed. “So I have transportation,” he explained.

Nevertheless, other forces this year could decide for him whether he’ll be living at the basin.

A clean-up is being planned in the coming weeks to clear away the encampments around Encino Creek that have come to be known as “The Bamboos.”

Such cleanups have gotten more common in communities all over Southern California, as officials seek ways to respond to complaints from residents and to concerns about the safety of the homeless.

In the San Fernando Valley, the anticipated clean-up is the last phase of a coordinated effort to remove encampments at the regional park and water basin. Three other clean-ups have occurred — at the fields near Sepulveda Basin Sports Complex, around Haskell Creek near the archery range, and at Bull Creek near Lake Balboa Park.

Oscar Mendoza, who has lived in the Sepulveda Basin for seven years, said he has indeed seen the rains get truly scary at least twice. He pointed to a spot on a tree near him, above his head. That was the water line, he said.

The place where he stood is where water gets collected once the dam gates close, he said. Even the road, where cars now zoom by, is blocked off during heavy rains.

“This is the deepest part of the river,” he said. “The water is coming from Reseda, Canoga Park.”

Despite the cooler temperatures, Mendoza was not wearing a shirt. On his chest, he showed off an intricately drawn lion tattoo that he said he got done at a tattoo shop in Van Nuys. He explained that it represents the city he hails from, Leon, in the Mexican state of Guanajuato.

Before he ended up in the basin and on the streets, he had a family in his life, he said. His daughter, whom he still speaks to from time to time, is now 12. He said he ended up here because he drank too much.

He has not made any plans to leave; he was cleaning up a tent with a roof that should weather the storm. Its previous resident died.

Mendoza apologized for the mess. A large pot of days-old rigatoni sat nearby. Rather than the coming rains, he was more focused on scrounging up the few dollars he needs, from the recycled goods he planned to collect.

“I don’t like rain,” he said. “I don’t like this weather. I like summer, when the summer is coming, hot hot hot, I love it.”

Over in the South Bay and Harbor areas, heavy rains were not expected, so those living in encampments will do what they usually do — hunker down and ride out the damp weather.

At the recently relocated McCoy Street encampment off Lomita Boulevard in Harbor City, a bit of rain could actually be an advantage, as the unpaved streets in the industrial area are thick with flyaway dust, according to San Pedro homeless advocate Amber Sheikh Ginsberg.

“The dust there is awful and a little dampness would really help,” she said.

The rain could be an issue, however, for a mobile shower event planned for Wednesday, Nov. 20, in San Pedro.

Shari Weaver, who heads up the Harbor Interfaith Services’ coordinated entry system to put the homeless in line for services, said this is just the start of challenging weather.

The area’s cold-weather shelter in Long Beach may open up in early December, Weaver said.

“We’re hearing possibly Dec. 1 or Dec. 8,” she said. Discussions are ongoing about pick-up and drop-off points.

The shelter this year, with about 125 beds, will be located near the 47 Freeway off of Pacific Coast Highway, she said.

The cold-weather winter shelters, which usually open around mid-December, she said, are often filled to capacity. This one will serve the entire area from San Pedro to Inglewood.

“We have our outreach workers doing the heavy work now to let folks know we’re getting (the shelter) ready,” Weaver said.

Those traveling on the buses can only bring a minimum of possessions — about one bag, she said.

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