Homeless in the Heat Wave

The District has really been feeling the heat this summer! With temperatures topping 100 degrees last week and heat indexes upwards of 115, we’ve all been struggling to find ways to keep cool.

Not only is the oppressive heat of the DC summer uncomfortable – it can also be dangerous. Being outdoors in extreme heat puts you at risk for sunburn, dehydration, heat exhaustion and potentially fatal heat stroke. This latest heat wave already claimed the lives of over 30 people across the country.

For most people, these dangerous conditions are relatively easy to avoid. Those experiencing homelessness, however, are much more vulnerable during the summer. Homeless individuals don’t always have the same resources to cool off that many of us take for granted.

Wintertime may be the more common season of extreme weather that most of us think of affecting people who are homeless. While hypothermia may seem a more obvious danger, the heat can be just as deadly. Lack of easy access to cool drinking water and air conditioning makes those who are homeless particularly vulnerable. Isolated, elderly, or obese individuals, as well those on certain medications, are at an even higher risk.

Symptoms of heat stroke can include:

  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Chills
  • Throbbing headache
  • High body temperature
  • Confusion/dizziness
  • Slurred speech

If you see someone exhibiting these symptoms, they need immediate medical attention, as heat stroke can be deadly. Even when it’s not fatal, it can still cause severe, permanent damage.

If the heat index reaches 95 degrees or above, Calvary stays open for residents to have access to air conditioning and plenty of water, so they can avoid potentially dangerous exposure to the heat. The city also has a number of facilities available that provide water and air-conditioned shelter to those who are homeless during heat waves like this one.

If you see someone in need of shelter from the heat, call the District’s hotline at 1-800-535-7252. For transportation to a cooling center, contact (202) 399-7093.

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