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Rainy nights provide opportunity to reach out to LA's homeless




For the legions of homeless people living in flood-prone areas near riverbeds and freeway overpasses, storms can be life-threatening.
For the legions of homeless people living in flood-prone areas near riverbeds and freeway overpasses, storms can be life-threatening.
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A big storm is expected to drop a lot of much needed rain on the area, beginning as early as tonight, a welcome relief during our long drought.

But for the legions of homeless people living in flood-prone areas near riverbeds and freeway overpasses, this kind of storm can be life-threatening.

In one response, The city of L.A. says it will be keeping its winter shelters open 24 hours a day until Saturday morning when the rain is expected to taper off. One shelter that's always open is Union Rescue Mission in Downtown L.A. Even if it fills to capacity tonight, the mission will take people in need to other winter shelters.

Sanden Totten spoke Union Rescue Mission's CEO, Rev. Andy Bales, to find out more about the shelter's services during the storm.

If you see someone in danger during the storm and would like resources to help, contact our guest Rev. Andy Bales with Union Rescue Mission at 626-260-4761 or Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority at (213) 224-8589.

*Note: Union Rescue Mission is located in Downtown L.A., not Pasadena, as was mentioned during our live broadcast.

Here are three takeaways from the interview:

1. Even though El Nino was a dud, it doesn't mean people shouldn't be prepared for tonight, or any other storm warnings.

ANDY BALES: I'm hoping that hasn't made us lackadaisical in getting the word out now for those people who have camped out. This can be deadly if we've put people to sleep by not being ready this year.

2. People from various organizations will be out tonight looking for people to rescue in high risk areas.

BALES: PATH, or People Assisting the Homeless, has outreach teams that go along the rivers and the LAHSA outreach team goes out. [Union Rescue Mission] will do what we can and we'll have people ready if somebody sees someone in need tonight. We'll have a van ready to pick them up and we'll bring them back to the mission until we're filled and then we'll get them to the other winter shelters.

3. Helping someone who doesn't want shelter is tricky, but not impossible.

BALES: Persist in your invitation. Sometimes it takes 30 invitations before somebody takes you up on it. The rain, although it's dangerous and inconvenient, can assist. Two years ago, the rain was about to hit and I went into the woods of Pasadena and invited a man to come with me that night. I said, 'The rain is going to hit tonight' and he actually got in my car and came with me. So if you're a caring, compassionate person, and you might want to take a teammate out with you, this will be a night when people will likely take you up on the offer and go with you to a winter shelter. That's for the compassionate and the brave, but it is an opportune time to get someone to make a move off the street before the rain hits.

*This interview has been edited for clarity

Click the blue player above to hear the interview