The first two weeks of the new year have brought strong winter rain storms to California. The bomb cyclone, that caused mass destruction across the state during the first week of January, has only been followed by more storms and record breaking rain. These large periods of rain are a positive sign for California’s drought problem that is currently the worst in recorded history, but a lack of updated infrastructure and improper planning has left two unhoused people in Sacramento dead. The storms have affected most in California, whether it has been from flooding, power outages or overall inaccessibility. However, the unhoused have and continue to be at the forefront of those affected.
The two unhoused persons in California’s capitol who lost their lives due to this slew of storms were both killed by falling trees. One of the victims was a 61 year old male, while the other was a 40 year old woman who left behind five children. Insufficient planning for the unhoused population across the state has exposed them to these ever changing extreme weather conditions. Last year eight unhoused people in Sacramento lost their lives after freezing to death, a dark reality that is becoming too familiar. Summers in California have also only gotten worse with high temperatures and now, after not having any large rain storms in the past few years, those living in the Golden State are unfamiliar with how to navigate the problems caused by it.
The unhoused crisis has continued to increase in recent years due to overcrowding, lack of government aid and the rising costs of rent and goods. In Sacramento, the number of unhoused people has risen 70% since 2019. It is wrong that while California is one of the richest states in the US, it has one of the highest rates of unhoused people and there are not enough resources to help. In Sacramento and other cities, during this storm period, unhoused encampments have continued to be targeted and subsequently moved or destroyed.
In most of California, the unhoused are treated as a problem that can be shoved away and should be out of sight. The ever growing trend of anti homelessness architecture across the state is just one indicator of how targeted this population is to those in government. Additionally, cities that offer warming centers or shelters are underfunded, and these are usually run by local groups that do not have enough beds to give aid to everyone. According to the Sacramento Bee, in Sacramento County there are only 1,000 spaces available in warming centers and 2,300 shelter beds. In other California cities, like Ontario, the unhoused were warned and evacuated from high risk areas or given a hotel voucher to get off of the streets. This should be standard practice, but hotels are usually opposed to offering their rooms to paying guests of this nature.
The solution to the unhoused problem is to make rent more affordable and to provide more government aid to those that need it, though said solution is heavily opposed. The cycle of homelessness is vicious and one that typically continues to get worse overtime. Without an address it is impossible to apply for a job or receive mail, limiting opportunities. Having a house is an important part of being a functioning member of society and the moment someone loses that, they, in most cases, lose their connection to participate with others in this society.
It is unclear how this continuing problem of unhoused deaths will be resolved without proper government intervention. These California storms are still on-going and the state is not out of the clear yet. The rising extremity of weather conditions, caused by climate change, will only get worse and create a larger gap between those who have proper resources and those who do not.