Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

COVID-19 has made heat waves even harder on the homeless

With many businesses and public spaces closed, access to water can be hard to come by.
Emma Lee
/
Union Gospel Mission
With many businesses and public spaces closed, access to water can be hard to come by.

The hottest stretch of summer is coming up, with multiple days over 80 degrees in the forecast. That kind of summer heat wave can be dangerous for people living outside.

For many, the only shelter is a hot tent or a hot car, and most have no access to running water. With COVID-19, relief is even harder to find. Many locations where people experiencing homelessness might have gone to use a water fountain or take advantage of air conditioning have shut down.

Scott Cleveland, senior director of the men's shelter at the Union Gospel Mission in Seattle, says people can suffer from sunburn, heat exhaustion, heat stroke — or worse.

"People can die from dehydration. And I just don't think that's on most folks' radar," Cleveland said. "I think we think about that when temperatures get to 30 degrees where people can freeze, but people can perish in this heat. So we're just not comfortable with that." 

On any day that reaches above 80 degrees, Union Gospel Mission will open a hydration station outside their shelter in the Pioneer Square neighborhood, where they'll offer cool water and sunscreen. They'll also have outreach teams going out to offer bottled water, sunscreen, lip balm and hats.

Posey Gruener is a former KNKX producer who worked on All Things Considered and Sound Effect.