NELA residents help each other through record heat wave


Amid September’s record heat wave and triple-digit temperatures in LA, public library branches and other designated sites doubled as cooling centers across Northeast LA (NELA). Collected in the Ready LA database, these centers, as well as the efforts of community members, provided needed relief to NELA residents.

California residents live with surprisingly limited access to central air conditioning—about 3,000 of 10,000 surveyed in a 2019 US Census Bureau effort go without it. Daren Blankenship said he and his family have lived in Eagle Rock for about 56 years. Blankenship said he does not have central AC in his residence, only in his plumbing truck, where his dog has lived during the heat wave. Nevertheless, the heat did not stop Blankenship from helping out his neighbors, he said.

“I’m more worried about some of my clients that I know don’t have AC, and I go check up on them,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship said he has two cases of water in his work truck, which he hands out to unhoused community members he sees.

“There was a guy up the street earlier, definitely dehydrated, and I gave him two bottles of water,” Blankenship said.

Pablo Garcia, another long-time NELA resident, is the manager at Yosemite Swimming Pool.

“I myself have been living in Los Angeles for over two decades, and this summer, this moment, is probably the hottest I’ve experienced,” Garcia said.

There’s no air conditioning, only a standing fan, in the lifeguard shack he works in, according to Garcia. He has AC in his own home, but keeps it at a minimum of 76, he said.

“A lot of people don’t know about this facility as we are located towards the back end of the park,” Garcia said. “But recently, we have been getting a lot of new people who are discovering this week that there is an aquatic facility here for them to cool off.”

The excessive heat warning is no longer in effect, according to the National Weather Service, but frequent red-hot temperatures remain dangerous for many, especially unhoused people.

Emma Galbraith (sophomore) said she has been working with the LA Community Fridges (LACF) through the Sunrise Movement on the Occidental campus.

“Our work is focused specifically on what concrete change we can affect at the campus level and then at the city level as well, and in the neighborhood,” Galbraith said. “Our connection to LACF is really focused on our principle of community sustainability and to that end, we’re working on this mutual aid project with them, which is using our capacity as students to go stock the two free fridges that are on Eagle Rock Boulevard and Townsend Avenue.”

Galbraith said that with the recent heat wave, providing cold bottled waters is the organization’s main focus.

“Going to the fridges, you are pretty much always going to meet people,” Galbraith said. “We went the other day and we met some folks who came up and one of the first things they asked about was water.”

Galbraith stressed the need for donations of bottled water to the fridges. In addition to providing much-needed water to the community, frozen bottles keep food in the heavily-trafficked fridges from spoiling, according to Galbraith.

“The more cold water there is in those fridges, the colder those fridges can stay,” she said.

Occidental students can email to arrange donations with the club, visit one of the community fridges, or volunteer to help clean out and restock fridges for the community of NELA.

“As long as there are students on campus who have the capacity and the willingness to work on these fridges, we’ll keep doing it,” Galbraith said.