For Immediate Release: April 3,  2024

Today, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a motion brought forth by Councilmember Nithya Raman to improve the City’s Augmented Winter Shelter (AWS) program and develop a comprehensive plan to ensure all available resources are leveraged to protect unsheltered residents ahead of, during, and after major storms. During the City’s recent major rains in February 2024, people in need of shelter experienced wait times as long as 4 hours via the 211LA hotline, thousands of calls went unanswered, and there were not enough motel vouchers and shelter beds to support those in need. Councilmember Raman’s motion seeks to implement a plan to ensure that the agencies responsible for protecting people experiencing homelessness during extreme weather events are coordinating resources and that every bed and voucher is utilized efficiently with the capacity to add more, as needed. 

Among the City’s most important resources during storms are Augmented Winter Shelter (AWS) beds and motel vouchers, allocated via the City and County respectively. During the last severe weather event in February, 211LA reported that all vouchers allocated to 211LA were issued – however, even those who were able to access vouchers were not always able to move indoors due to outreach teams being unavailable over the weekend, some participating motels being located prohibitively long distances from voucher-holders, or clients being difficult to locate after they were issued vouchers. Additionally, information about the availability of shelter beds, motel vouchers, and walk-up beds at temporary shelters operated by LAHSA with assistance from the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Recreation and Parks was inconsistent and contradictory across the websites of LAHSA and 211LA. 

“For unsheltered Angelenos, major storms can be life-threatening,” said Councilmember Raman. “In a city with 30,000 people experiencing unsheltered homelessness on any given night, fixing our system is a matter of life and death. We need to ensure these agencies are coordinating resources not only during a storm but ahead of a storm. As the City grapples with the reality of a changing climate, having the flexibility to respond to intensive rain, extreme heat, and other emergencies is an essential consideration for the next budget cycle, which is exactly what this motion will allow us to accomplish.”

“Over the last year, LAHSA has collaborated with our City and service provider partners to bring vulnerable people indoors and out of harm’s way during emergency shelter activations. These activations included last summer’s unprecedented tropical storm Hilary and early February’s succession of storms that battered the region, during which we brought approximately 1,000 people inside to safety,” said Paul Rubenstein, Deputy Chief External Relations Officer, LAHSA. “We hope the City will fund a year-round emergency shelter response in its new budget so we can work together with our partners to provide lifesaving shelter regardless of the season. LAHSA looks forward to working on this report to improve coordination between departments and agencies to build on our successes and apply lessons learned to further improve our emergency shelter response.” 

“211 LA supports Councilmember Nithya Raman’s motion to Enhance Emergency Response Services for Angelenos,” said Maribel Marin, Executive Director, 211LA. “Building on the experience of the past two winter seasons, Councilmember Raman’s motion rightly emphasizes the necessity for a comprehensive plan to enhance the Augmented Winter Shelter (AWS) program and streamline weather-related emergency management. By delineating clear responsibilities among city departments, establishing effective communication channels, and augmenting staffing capacity during peak periods, we can better serve our most vulnerable populations, including unsheltered Angelenos.”

Councilmember Raman’s motion instructs the Emergency Management Department, with assistance from LAHSA and 211LA, and in consultation with the Mayor’s Office, to report back within 30 days with a plan to improve the AWS program and better manage weather-related emergencies. To read the full text of the motion, click here