In the final analysis, the best place for homeless people to sleep is in affordable, safe housing units of their own. In Los Angeles, affordable and safe housing is becoming more challenging to find. Rent rates in LA have been on a steep increase in recent times, a situation that is not expected to abate any time soon. Understanding this reality, a frank consideration of the best places for homeless people to sleep is important.
Generally speaking, the best place for a homeless person to sleep is in a well-run, safe shelter. A prime example of a safe homeless shelter in Los Angeles is the Union Rescue Mission downtown. The Union Rescue Mission is one of the largest, and oldest, facilities of its kind anywhere in the United States.
There are a number of reasons why homeless shelters provide the best place to sleep for homeless people. As referenced a moment ago, safety is a key reason why a homeless shelter proves to be the best choice for a homeless person to sleep.
In addition to providing a roof over the heads of homeless people, many shelters also offer guests at least one wholesome meal daily. Some homeless shelters have even moved beyond merely providing emergency assistance. These shelters are developing different programs designed to assist people break out of the cycle of poverty and homelessness. Examples of these programs include:
- Job counseling
- Adult education
- Addition support groups
- Individual counseling
- Spiritual support
Homeless shelters in Southern California and resources that can connect people to safe shelters include:
Union Rescue Mission
Los Angeles County
Orange County Rescue Mission
Coachella Valley Rescue Mission
Time for Change Foundation
San Bernardino County
PATH Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara County
There are misconceptions about homeless encampments. Many people outside the homeless community complain about these encampments because of the damage they can do to the environment in the form of waste and other issues. With that said, these same people sometimes operate under the presumption that homeless encampments are helpful to homeless people in other ways. They conclude that a homeless encampment represents a pretty decent alternative for homeless people to sleep.
In reality, and in many ways, homeless encampments do not top the list of the best places for homeless people to sleep. There are a variety of reasons why homeless encampments are not good places for people to sleep. These reasons include:
- Sanitation issues
- Drug use
If a homeless person can muster some basic supplies, including a tent, camping can prove to be a decent alternative, a more appropriate way to live and sleep when lacking a residence. With this noted, camping must be done in a lawful manner and at a location at which it is lawfully permitted. Camping doesn’t mean pitching a makeshift tent as part of a homeless encampment.
In the greater Los Angeles areas, there are places in which camping lawfully can occur. You do need to bear in mind that there can be time limits on how long a person can stay at a particular camp location. In addition, there can be fees associated with accessing a camping site. These are both important factors to keep in mind when considering camping as a sleep alternative when homeless.
A large number of homeless people in LA sleep in their cars. On some level, using a car for sleep is better than being out in the elements. On the other hands, each year there are instances in which a homeless person dies in a car while attempting to lodge for the night. This tends to happen in one of three ways:
- A person trying to sleep in a car ends up exposed to extreme elements, which result in death.
- A person attempting to sleep in a car turns on the engine to use the heater (or air conditioner, depending on the time of year) and ends up exposed to deadly gases like carbon monoxide.
- A person sleeping in a car becomes the victim of some type of crime.
A good many homeless people in LA sleep on sidewalks, sometimes in the doorways of closed buildings. There is some thought among the homeless population that being in a more exposed area provides them with a level of protection because they think they will be less likely to be targeted by others with criminal design.
In fact, sleeping on sidewalks is dangerous and likely illegal. This should not be included on a list of the best places to sleep when homeless, even though this commonly occurs. Indeed, there are strict prohibitions is LA, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and Santa Barbara County when it comes to sleeping on sidewalks. Enforcement of these ordinances is not even. Thus, a homeless person will be able to get away with sleeping on sidewalks in some locations, but not in others.