California’s Homelessness Crisis Isn’t Just a National Problem

Column: Could extreme heat be just what California needs to finally solve homelessness? (The Mercury News)

Column: Could extreme heat be just what California needs to finally solve homelessness? (The Mercury News)

California’s homelessness problem has been bad enough. But if we let those who have nowhere to go burn out, it would be a crisis of national proportions.

The state is facing one of the worst droughts in its history, with tens of thousands of people relying on emergency services to heat their homes. The cause: a heat wave that has been followed by the longest stretch without a significant drop in temperatures in the state since the 1930s.

On June 1, the mercury hit 118 degrees, setting a record that will likely never be equaled. By June 4, it had climbed to the all-time record high, reaching 118 degrees twice.

It was a perfect storm, and it is now at its third month. The temperature index shows that statewide, June 2018 was the third warmest in the state’s history, with more than 4,000 record-breaking days, the most in the data set’s 17-year history. The current statewide record is an astounding 4,976 days.

And this was California: the warm-weather pariah that is New Mexico, in the eastern part of the state, was warmer even than Los Angeles, where the heat wave was worst.

For years, the heat wave has been the cause of more than its share of wildfires. Now, the heat has been driving so many people to the streets. There are at least 17 homeless encampments in the state, according to records made public this week by county offices.

The homeless crisis isn’t just a national problem — it is a state problem.

It is also a public health crisis.

An estimated 500,000 people live without reliable water or electricity. There are more than 1,000 homeless people in the state, and at least 800 homeless people in Los Angeles Unified School District.

In the Bay

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