Summer is right around the corner, and with it, the deadly heat that threatens the lives of the homeless men, women, and children we serve. Every year it’s a life and death struggle against time and temperature. An average of 118 people die every year. The danger disproportionately target’s our most vulnerable populations: seniors, those with disabilities, and homeless people.
That’s why our Code:Red initiative is so vital to the community we serve. Our mission every summer is to provide heat relief to these vulnerable neighbors in our city. Hydration is what saved Isaac. He was homeless during the summer of 2017 – the hottest year ever recorded in Phoenix* – but he survived because he followed one basic rule: “No matter what, I always made sure I saved at least one dollar to keep a gallon of water by my side.”
In Phoenix, that’s not just a good idea – it’s a rule to live by. “Water was hugely important,” says Isaac, remembering his days on our baked summer streets. “During the summer you’re sweating all the time, day and night you’re always drenched.” All that sweating takes a toll. In fact, Arizona officials estimate that our dry heat outdoors causes us to lose 1-2 liters of water every hour. That’s moisture that must be replenished as fast as it’s lost in order to avoid heat-related illness. Combine that with the dehydrating effects of alcohol and other drugs and you have a recipe for disaster.
“There were those who spent their last dollars on beer or booze… you could tell by their cracked lips that they were dehydrated.” Isaac found himself on the streets after a rough divorce left him depressed and without much motivation to keep on going. As a veteran of the Iraq war, his training taught him how vital it is to stay hydrated in the desert, but training only takes you so far without the basics. “That was the hardest thing about being on the streets. My shoes were falling apart, my clothes were in tatters. We would make makeshift tarps to stay out of the sun, but they didn’t last long.” Then Isaac felt a push in the right direction.
“I felt like the Spirit was telling me, ‘I made you for far more than this. Get up and go.’”
And he did – right to the air-conditioned chapel of Phoenix Rescue Mission, where he was relieved to find his faith rewarded. “I immediately saw God working through this program. The guys here all had actual joy. I wanted that. I wanted Christ in my life.“
Isaac was thirsty for the living water only Christ can give. Through your support and the hard work of our counselors and staff, he was able to drink deeply. He found a purpose and a reason to move forward again – to help others find the joy he found in Christ.
“A lot of the homeless people I met out there felt there was no coming back. ‘Homeless’ became their identity – it’s who they were and they didn’t see that changing. But through the Transformations Program, God has shaped me into a leader. Now I can bring them that hope. I’m on the front lines of what Phoenix Rescue Mission does best – transforming lives and ending hunger and homelessness. It’s my chance to give back.”
Today, Isaac is a new creation and a graduate of our recovery program. He’s not only found freedom from his depression, he’s preparing to go into seminary to help spread the word that changed his life. But, the truth is, Isaac could have easily been one of the 118 who succumb to the heat every year and are lost forever.
In a city like ours, there’s no reason for someone to die on the streets for lack of water. That’s why our Code:Red initiative is so important to us. It saves hundreds of lives from the deadly heat, and gives men like Isaac, as well as women and children the opportunity to find hope and a way forward.
Together, let’s fill the streets with hope and hydration and make this summer safe for every one of our homeless neighbors this year!