Water Drop - Keeping LA Hydrated
Water Drop LA plans to use grant funds to support our weely water distributions to unhoused residents, and to support water provision to partner organizations in LA so that no resident goes without clean drinking water. Building on the trust we have established with unhoused residents in Skid Row by providing water weekly for almost two years, we plan to equip volunteers with the tools to link residents to resources, overcoming traditional barriers to access.
What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?
Housing and Homelessness
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?
Expand existing project, program, or initiative
What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?
Water Drop LA seeks to address critical water insecurity faced by unhoused residents of Skid Row. Despite having the highest concentration of sheltered and unsheltered homeless residents, there is no operating organization to meet Skid Row’s drinking water needs. Water provision for unhoused residents has been exacerbated by COVID-19 as essential services have been significantly reduced, and public water infrastructure has been shut off or poorly maintained. In Skid Row, most residents have unclean or irregular water access at best. They must purchase overpriced water from liquor stores, tap fire hydrants, or rely on broken drinking fountains. There is roughly 1 drinking fountain for every 520 unhoused residents living in Skid Row, all of which are clogged or broken. These issues are made worse by the lack of tree cover and asphalt making Skid Row an “urban heat island.” High heat coupled with a lack of clean water results in frequent cases of dehydration, heat stroke, and even death.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
Water Drop LA seeks to address this water insecurity crisis by bringing water and other necessities directly to residents of Skid Row. In our nearly 2-years of operation, we have completed 99 Skid Row Drops. We plan to use LA 2050 funds to support 26 weeks of water operations. Each week we distribute 1700 gallons of water, 1,296 bottles of electrolytes, and 84 bulk boxes of soft foods for between 720 and 850 people. This model of distribution overcomes barriers to access by providing water to any resident within the bounds of our program, where they are, and with no strings attached. Our consistency within the community has allowed our core team and volunteers to develop strong, trusting relationships with community members who often assist in our weekly distributions. A second core component of Water Drop LA’s model is our partner water program. We provide water to underresourced organizations to support their efforts serving low-income and unhoused communities. This allows us to support residents across LA County and to partner with organizations that know their specific communities’ needs better than we do. Beyond bringing these essential resources to combat water insecurity, we are planning to expand the needs our volunteers are equipped to address. We are planning a series of training events for repeat volunteers around first aid and resource linkages, to connect residents to housing, shelter, job training, document procurement, and benefits enrollment.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
If our work is successful, LA County will see an increase in access to clean water for low-income, economically disadvantaged, and homeless communities, a decrease in dehydration and heat-related illnesses and deaths, and an increase in homeless service utilization. While our work in the short term focuses on bringing urgent aid and resources to Skid Row, we hope our long-term advocacy efforts will lead to public water infrastructure that guarantees water access even without water distributions. We expect our community building, empowerment, and training efforts to lead to a movement of action-oriented individuals who are equipped to act to address issues in their communities. Many of our volunteers volunteer repeatedly, and some have gone on to create their own non-profit organizations after identifying unmet needs while doing water drops.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
We measure our impact through surveys with unhoused residents, the strength of our partnerships, and the strength of our volunteer base. Based on an internal evaluation of our efforts, most residents that receive water from Water Drop LA stated that our distributions were the source of the majority or all of their weekly drinking water. They stated that otherwise they would need to rely on unclean sources such as fire hydrants, or simply go without. Since our founding, we have worked with more than 50 mutual aid groups and non-profits. In FY 2021-22, we donated water to roughly 15 organizations on a monthly basis. Through these partnerships, we have donated 21,760 gallons of water in total. Lastly, a large part of what we consider success is how many housed members of the community we are able to engage. Since 2020, we have welcomed 847 volunteers who have contributed 13,500+ volunteer hours. 62% of our volunteers have returned to volunteer after their first drop.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 1,050
Indirect Impact: 50