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How Los Angeles' homeless are trying to beat the heat

File: A homeless man sleeps beside the wall on the sidewalk along a street in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 9, 2016.
File: A homeless man sleeps beside the wall on the sidewalk along a street in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 9, 2016.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

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Southern California has been experiencing a heat wave for the past week, and for many homeless people in Los Angeles, that has meant taking cover in tents and cooling centers.

"There really isn't any way to beat it,” said Dwayne Carter, from inside his tarp-covered shelter on a cul-de-sac in south L.A. “Just have to find a little shade and take cover for a while until it lets up a little bit."

Carter lost his home nine months ago, and he says this is the worst heat he has experienced from the street so far. Like many homeless people in L.A., his tent is covered with tarps and blankets to keep the inside cool.

Not all are daunted by the heat wave. “The only problem with the heat is that you have to make sure making sure food is kept cold,” said Cornell Smith, heating water on a gas-powered hot plate outside of his tent on South Broadway.

For those who do need indoor relief from the heat, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has been shuttling people to cooling centers, usually located at libraries or community centers.

“If someone is in a place where they need to get inside a cool environment as quickly as possible we can transfer them in our vans,” LAHSA spokesman Tom Waldman said. “We encourage them to get to a shelter as quickly as possible or one of our cooling centers.”

LAHSA workers have been told to look for signs of cramps or heat stroke. 

In addition to cooling centers, shelters have been fitted with amenities to address the heat.

One shelter in Pomona has had a mist spraying system installed to help cool the courtyard. With 40 new beds and two new air conditioning units to be added soon, it is being converted from a seasonal shelter into a year-round facility.

As for the unsheltered, Waldman said vans are out distributing bottled water. 

Some people out on the street have been helping too. Ronnie Williams, who lost his home a few months ago after losing his job as a truck driver, said he and a friend have been bringing water to elderly homeless people in South L.A.

"The lady that passes the big packs of water and stuff like that doesn't know where most of the people are,” he said. “Me and this guy usually go and take them water.”

The National Weather Service expects excessively high temperatures will persist inland over the weekend.

This post has been updated to correct the spelling of LAHSA spokesman Tom Waldman. KPCC regrets the error.