A man experiencing homelessness was found dead outside of the Eagle Rock Vons on the morning Feb. 26. Jane Demian, Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (ERNC) homelessness liaison, said she suspected he froze to death due to the unprecedented winter temperatures Los Angeles has been experiencing.
The night before the man died, it was raining and the weather was around 45 degrees.
Cesar*, an employee at the Eagle Rock Vons, said he was working when the man was found dead.
“I saw him turn this direction, and he had no shirt on. I went to help put away the carts, and half an hour later my boss came outside and saw him.” Cesar said. “The man wasn’t moving, so we called the ambulance. The paramedics declared him deceased once they had covered the body. This was at around 8:30 or 9 in the morning.”
Richard Jerez, who works at Vons as a security guard, said he has gotten to know many of the unhoused people who frequent the Vons parking lot. Jerez said that because the homeless community in Eagle Rock is smaller compared to the rest of LA, most people know each other and keep track of one another.
“It was raining that night, and it was cold. The man was under a tarp type thing, but it kept flipping up.” Jerez said, “[He] was drinking vodka to try and stay warm.”
Demian said the system in place to support people experiencing homelessness is broken. She said she has been involved in providing aid for the unhoused community in Eagle Rock for years, and has observed the system’s flaws.
“So in a case like this, when you have a person dying on the street, you have to question what the system is really doing to help homeless people who really need help,” Demian said. “In a city with all these resources, somebody’s just left there. How does that happen?”
Demian said that while housed neighbors in LA are happy that snow fell in the mountains, the bone-cold temperatures devastate unhoused neighbors. There are winter shelters to protect unhoused people in LA during colder months, but Demian said the limited availability and instability of winter shelters makes them an unsustainable solution.
“People go into the winter shelter for a week, during which time their tents and everything in the tent will be thrown away. Because the sweeps come through and take everything away,” Demian said. “Then after they leave, they go back to the street, and they have to find another tent and try to pull together a new home.”
There is a memorial by the ice machine outside of Vons, which Cesar said is dedicated to the man who died there. According to Jerez, people in Eagle Rock’s unhoused community are sad about this loss and are concerned about future winter storms.
“You never want to see people in this situation, but so many people are stuck,” Jerez said.
Contact Eliza Kirk at firstname.lastname@example.org
*The last name of Cesar has been withheld. For more information on The Occidental’s anonymity policy, visit our Frequently Asked Questions.