9 Ways to Help Homeless People in the Heat

Now that Phoenix highs are firmly in the 115 degree range, it seems the perfect time to share this list from End Homelessness blogger, Becky Blanton. Becky knows a great deal about surviving in the heat - she herself was part of the "working homeless"  and lived in a van in Denver, Colorado for over a year. She now has over 20 years as a journalist and is a speaker on homelessness. Here are her tips:

  1. Frozen bottled water. Try to freeze (not just chill) bottled water before handing it out. The ice will melt slowly for drinking, but can also be used for general cooling. Freezing the bottles will provide a cold source that people can hold to their heads or necks or between their wrists.
  2. Water bottles. Consider handing out reusable, durable water bottles that can be refilled from public water sources.
  3. Sunglasses. Project Care in Daytona Beach recently gave out 300 pairs of sunglasses to the homeless. Consider doing likewise. To be effective, Prevent Blindness America says glasses should block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
  4. Hats. Baseball hats, straw hats, anything-with-a-brim hats. This keeps the sun off the face and out of the eyes.
  5. Wearable umbrellas. They may be a gimmick of beach-going tourists, but umbrella hats (as cheap as 72 cents each if bought in bulk) are a great way to keep sun off of kids and adults alike, although children may be more willing to wear them.
  6. Bandanas. Dipped in water and draped around the neck or head, these can bring down temperatures significantly. Groups can make their own cooling bandanas to hand out to the homeless. All it takes is cotton fabric, basic sewing skills and this pattern. When dipped in cold water, the cooling bandana will provide long-term relief and can be reused again and again.
  7. Personal fans with spray attachments. Handheld battery-operated fans with a spray bottle attached for misting water are an excellent way to cool off quickly. If you can, supply extra batteries too.
  8. Sunscreen. Great idea, but don't give away that bottle you barely used last year. Sunscreen's protective ingredients expire after 12 months. Don't be cheap. Buy new bottles. The average adult needs about a shot glass worth of sunscreen per day in the sun to stay totally protected.
  9. Zinc oxide ointment. This will keep lips and noses from burning and is much easier to carry and apply than sunscreen.

If you would like to help homeless people in Phoenix, check out our website or drop off any of the items Becky has listed at our Family Outreach Center. You may also refer people to respite and cooling stations with this brochure . Read more of Becky's blog here.

Top 10 Tips to Beat the Heat

Forecasters are saying weekend temperatures could hit over 116 degrees in Phoenix. This news leaves even life-long Phoenicians feeling the burn.

With that in mind, here are 10 tips from www.phoenix.gov to avoid heat-related illness:

  • Drink! Never depend on thirst to signal when and how much to drink. Instead, drink five seven ounces of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes to replenish the necessary fluids in the body.
  • Limit exercise or outdoor activity between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun is at its peak intensity. If active during this time frame, drink a minimum of 16 to 32 ounces of water each hour
  • Avoid “heat hangover” Continue to drink fluids even after strenuous activity. This will enable the body to maintain optimum hydration and help prevent the after effects of heat exposure such as headaches and fatigue.
  • Avoid beverages containing alcohol, caffeine or large amounts of sugar as they dehydrate the body.
  • Never leave infants, children or pets inside a parked vehicle - 90% of the temperature rise occurs within 15 minutes of closing and leaving the car.
  • Some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, may increase the risk of heat-related illness. Consult your physician if you have questions.
  • When outdoors, wear a sunscreen with a minimum SPF15. Apply at least 30 minutes prior to going outdoors and re-apply as necessary.
  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing when outside.
  • Take advantage of free air conditioning! Visit shopping malls, movie theaters or the library to escape the heat for a few hours.
  • Rest frequently in shady areas so that the body's temperature has a chance to recover when outdoors. 

Now imagine following those tips when you have no access to water, no shade or are actually living out of your car.  According to a recent article from naztoday.com:

"Heat is more than a matter of comfort in the Phoenix area. It kills more people than earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes combined in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Dozens of mostly homeless and elderly people die in the Phoenix area every year, and hundreds more experience heat-related illnesses that can cause a rapid heart beat, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness."

That's why Phoenix Rescue Mission will open its shelter facility during the daytime this weekend for homeless people to come in and cool off. We will also be distributing water, food, sunscreen and ball caps provided by our donors to those in need. The Mission is part of the Phoenix Heat Relief Network, which means we provide respite, a water hydration station for the homeless and serve as a water distribution hub for other agencies providing water to those on the street all summer long. Visit www.phoenixrescuemission.org if you'd like to help or you can drop off water donations Monday through Saturday, 8:30AM – 4:00PM at:

The Family Outreach Center
1468 N 26th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85009 
SW corner of McDowell & 26th Avenue