California’s Cooling Center Program Will Be Designed for the Community

Even during record heat, surprisingly few people go to L.A. cooling centers. Why? Because when you need cooling, the answer is usually just a phone call.

We put that question to Joe Rago, executive director of the Center for Green, Healthy and Sustainable Living at the University of California, Los Angeles. He said the main factor is that cooling centers, typically small operations owned by private contractors, often are too hard to reach.

“If you don’t have a working phone number, they won’t call you at all,” Rago said. “They’d rather call someplace else like a hospital or a prison.”

The big problem with L.A. cooling centers, Rago says, is that they’re so badly designed, they are not designed for the community, but for the person in need.

The state Legislature passed a law in the fall of 2011 directing the California State cooling center program to come up with a new approach to cool thousands of vulnerable people in the state. Rago says it will be a program that has community as well as state and federal funding.

When the L.A. program officially begins this summer, Rago says, it will begin with the more than 11,000 people who are currently on the state’s list for cooling center placement. They must qualify by presenting a doctor’s recommendation, be able to provide their own transportation, and be available on weekends, holidays or most nights of the week. The program also will include people on the list who are considered too elderly or sick to be considered for the program.

The program will be administered by the state’s cooling centers. But the program is run as a cooperative between the state and nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing free cooling to people in need. The program also will be divided into three service areas, as well as a fourth area that includes people unable to give their own transportation.

“The services that we provide are there to help people who don’t have the ability to move,” said Michelle Pinche, director of the Office for the Aging and Aged Services.

But some of those people will not be the best candidates for the program because they live in poverty in the middle of crowded

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