Last week, scorching temperatures baked California, with temperatures reaching 110 degrees or higher in some areas. The Los Angeles Times reported that a 2021 investigation found that 3,900 California residents died of extreme heat over a nine-year period.
In the past, California's extreme heat has been especially deadly for the homeless population, Newsweek reported.
In California, there is no legal right to shelter, and the state isn't required to provide a safe place to sleep for anyone who needs it. There are 161,000 homeless people in California, the most of any U.S. state, according to statistics.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg in a LA Times column on Tuesday wrote that California's recent extreme heat could finally spur a solution for the homeless situation.
"When the temperature rises to new extremes and stays elevated for days at a time, tens of thousands of homeless people end up at greater risk of heatstroke, cardiac arrest and dehydration," Steinberg wrote.
"Unlike in cities on the East Coast and in the Midwest, which rely on a robust network of shelters to spare homeless people from the dangers of extreme cold, cities in the West have long let people languish outdoors in our generally good weather."
He added: "These days are extreme examples of what is wrong and broken in the first place. If extreme weather can help drive the change that is necessary, then let's take advantage of the crisis."
Steinberg historically has advocated for the Sacramento homeless population, Newsweek observed.
According to the mayor's Office of Civic Engagement, Steinberg proposed a right-to-housing ordinance in late 2021. If passed, Sacramento would be required to offer housing to every homeless person. The Mercury News reported that if the ordinance passes, the city could offer a shelter, sanctioned tent encampment, or other housing option to its homeless population. The ordinance would go into place in January 2023 if approved.
According to The Mercury News, Sacramento has committed to spending $100 million on homelessness through 2023.
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