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.