Despite scorching temperatures that shattered official records and led to deaths on the street, many chairs ended up sitting empty at the handful of city cooling centers set up to spare Angelenos from the blistering heat.
Fewer than 300 people used the six centers that were set up at Los Angeles city facilities over the Labor Day holiday weekend — averaging fewer than 11 visitors daily at each site, according to numbers provided by the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti. One cooling center in South Los Angeles had no one stop in at all on Labor Day or the previous Friday.
Homeless advocates and city leaders who have pushed for more cooling centers and other aid for unhoused people during heat waves say that such facilities are not underused for lack of need. Across the county, at least three deaths over the holiday weekend have been linked to the heat wave, including two within L.A. city limits, according to the county coroner.
But Los Angeles has a slim number of official cooling centers scattered across the vast city — and people are often reluctant to travel far in broiling temperatures. Many homeless people are uneasy about leaving their belongings behind on the street. And some people in need, housed or unhoused, are unaware that the city facilities exist.
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