Heat waves are killing more unhoused individuals in Los Angeles

"About a week before her son died, Heidi Locatell begged him not to go back to living on the streets. Luke, 30, had been homeless on and off since around 2015 and struggled with addiction to meth. He had been residing in a sober living facility for nearly eight months but returned to being unhoused on Aug. 31 and relapsed. “He liked the freedom of nobody telling him what to do,” Locatell said.

As her son hit the streets, Southern California experienced one of the most grueling and intense heat waves of the year. Triple-digit temperatures bore down on the region for days during Labor Day weekend. The city opened nine cooling centers and added two more, but few people used them. // He had been diagnosed with heatstroke with altered mental status, acute kidney injury and acute respiratory failure, among other conditions. The cause of death was listed as hyperthermia and the effects of methamphetamine use. It was rare for a coroner to cite heat as a lethal factor, even though it often is.

Heat-related illness and death are “notoriously” undercounted because patients in emergency rooms are frequently diagnosed with other medical conditions, such as dehydration and kidney failure, without any mention of their high temperatures and exposure to heat, according to Dr. David Eisenman, a professor specializing in climate change at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health."

Read the full Los Angeles Times article, by Summer Lin, here

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David Eisenman
David Eisenman
Community Health Sciences
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