For many, the summer heat is nothing more than a season that comes with tanlines and sticky heat that can be remedied with the flip of a switch on an air conditioner. However, for those experiencing homelessness, the heatwave poses a much bigger risk than perspiration.
Many think that those experiencing homelessness are only at risk during the winter months, when they’re facing ice and snow. However, during summer days, the risk is just as great. When temperatures rise, those on the streets face the risk of exposure and lack of water as the leading causes of concern.
“We encourage people to go to available day centers at the Rescue Mission and Room In The Inn and public spaces such as libraries, community centers, the farmer's market, any buildings open to the general public,” said Judy Tackett, director of the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission.
During the day, the MHC’s outreach team travels throughout Nashville handing out bottles of water to those in need.
The Nashville Rescue Mission uses their Hot Patrol van, too, to provide water to those on the streets. In addition, they also provide emergency treatment and a place to cool off for the elderly, ill, women and children.
“When the forecast shows temperatures above 92 (degrees), the Mission’s ‘Hot Patrol’ hits the streets,” said Jessica Mason of the Nashville Rescue Mission. “We send out a group of people to patrol the streets of Nashville offering cold bottled water to our city's homeless. We encourage those we encounter to let us give them a ride to the Mission, where they can get out of the heat and have access to cold water and a cooler environment.”
One of the biggest focuses of both the MHC and the Nashville Rescue Mission is providing cold, clean water to Nashville’s homeless to fight off dehydration. Dehydration is dangerous, leading to fatigue, seizures and even death.
In addition to seeking donations of bottled water, the MHC is also accepting sunscreen, T-shirts, lip balm, underwear and socks.
Even though Metro’s immediate goal is to keep people safe from the heat by providing water and suggesting places to cool off, their largest goal to keep those experiencing homelessness safe is to get them into permanent housing.
“Our main goal is to collaborate with our partners to assist people in accessing housing as quickly as possible,” Tackett said. “At this point, what we most need is landlords willing to accept Section 8 vouchers and neighbors who work with us on finding affordable housing opportunities for people.”
Brinley Hineman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.