LOS ANGELES — Finding a place to charge cell phones and other electronics was a difficult task for people like Nano Garcia who were unhoused during the bulk of the pandemic.
After being unable to afford his rent, Garcia lost his housing nearly one year ago.
What You Need To Know
- Pandemic restrictions closed public restrooms, libraries and buildings
- The indoor closures left the homeless without access to power outlets, restrooms and more as many hunkered down and hoarded supplies indoors
- The impact of the pandemic connected the We The Unhoused and J-Town Action and Solidarity groups to create a Saturday pop-up charging station in Little Tokyo
- The charging station is run by volunteers and also provides harm reduction supplies, food, water and PPE
“It was hard, sad, you know? I had to humble myself. There was nothing for me to do,” Garcia said.
This was Garcia's first time living outside, and it came at a time when COVID-19 restrictions closed public buildings, indoor operations for small businesses and more. For Garcia, this meant no public restrooms and having to take a long ride just to charge his phone.
"The new buses, they have USBs under the seats. I would get in right there,” Garcia said while pointing at a nearby bus stop. “And I would go way out to the South Bay Galleria on the 40, charging my stuff and come back charging my stuff."
Like Garcia, many people who were homeless during the pandemic found themselves without basic supplies and resources, as many neighbors rushed grocery stores to hoard food and supplies.
Theo Henderson, who faced the challenges of being homeless during the pandemic and created the "We The Unhoused" podcast, decided to take his work a step further by partnering with the J-Town Action and Solidarity mutual aid group to create Power Up! To The People! charging stations on the corner of San Pedro Street and First Street in Little Tokyo.
“There were no charging devices. The libraries were closed. The coffee shops were closed. The businesses were closed. This sprung an idea that we needed to provide the same services and same resources for unhoused people,” Henderson said.
The Saturday pop-up station also provided food, water, PPE, harm reduction supplies and more. As restrictions are lifting in Los Angeles, Henderson is hoping to raise more funds to provide access to mobile WiFi and technology.
Garcia is hoping his situation is only temporary. But he shared that the stations are helping him along the way.
"They're spending their time with us," he said. "Donating their time and making us feel, and making us feel good. No matter what you go through the whole week, on Saturdays, we look forward to this, and this just brings us a lot of joy."
While Garcia remains homeless, he’ll continue to do his best to make ends meet. But he’s hopeful that one day, he’ll have a place to call home.
The charging station is in need of additional funding and volunteers to provide access to tech, mobile WiFi and access to additional pop up stations. For more information or to support the Power Up! To the People! charging station, follow @WeTheUnhoused on Instagram.