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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Extreme heat can be deadly for homeless people

PHOENIX ( Associated Press) – Hundreds of blue, green and gray tents were set up under the hot rays of the sun in the center of Phoenix, a pile of weak canvas and plastic along the dusty sidewalks. Here, in the warmest big city in America, thousands of homeless people are hot as summer three-digit temperatures arrive.

The stifling tent city grew amid pandemic-era evictions and rising rents that have thrown hundreds of people into the bustling streets that become eerily quiet when temperatures peak in mid-afternoon. The heat wave earlier this month brought temperatures up to 114 degrees (45.5 Celsius) – and it is only June. The highest temperature reached 118 degrees (47.7 Celsius) last year.

“During the summer, it’s pretty hard to find a place at night that’s cold enough to sleep on without being chased away by the police,” said Chris Madlock, a Phoenix homeless man known on the streets as “T-Boun” who carries everything in his small backpack. and often lies in a park or nearby desert reserve to avoid crowds.

“If a kind soul could only offer a place on its couch indoors, maybe more people would live,” said Medlock in the dining room where the homeless can get shade and a free meal.

Excessive heat causes more weather-related deaths in the United States than hurricanes, floods and tornadoes combined.

Across the country, heat contributes to about 1,500 deaths a year, and advocates estimate that about half of those people are homeless.

Temperatures are rising almost everywhere due to global warming, combined with brutal droughts in some places creating more intense, frequent and longer heat waves. The past few years have been some of the warmest recorded.

In the district that includes Phoenix alone, at least 130 homeless people were among the 339 people who died from heat-related causes in 2021.

“If 130 homeless people die in any other way, it would be considered mass casualties,” said Kristi L. Abby, professor of global health at the University of Washington.

It is a problem that extends across the United States, and now, with the rise in global temperatures, heat is no longer a danger only in places like Phoenix.

This summer is likely to bring temperatures above normal in most land areas around the world, according to a seasonal map made by volunteer climatologists for the International Research Institute at Columbia University.

Last summer, a heat wave hit the otherwise moderate northwestern United States, forcing Seattle residents to sleep in their backyards and on rooftops or flee to air-conditioned hotels. Across the state, several people believed to be homeless have died in the open, including a man who fell behind a gas station.

In Oregon, officials opened 24-hour cooling centers for the first time. Volunteer teams spread water and ice cream to homeless camps on the outskirts of Portland.

A quick scientific analysis concluded that last year’s heat wave in the Northwest Pacific was practically impossible without climate change caused by human factors, which added several degrees and broke previous records.

Even Boston is exploring ways to protect various neighborhoods like Chinatown, where population density and few trees in the shade are helping to raise temperatures up to 106 degrees (41 Celsius) on some summer days. The city is planning strategies such as increasing the canopy of trees and other types of shade, using cooler roofing materials and expanding the network of cooling centers during heat waves.

It’s not just a US problem. Last year’s analysis by the Associated Press of a set of data published by Columbia University’s School of Climate showed that exposure to extreme heat has tripled and now affects about a quarter of the world’s population.

This spring, an extreme heat wave hit most of Pakistan and India, where homelessness is widespread due to discrimination and insufficient accommodation. The highest temperature in Jacobabad in Pakistan near the border with India reached 122 degrees (50 Celsius) in May.

Dr Dileep Mawalankar, who heads the Indian Institute of Public Health in the western Indian city of Gandhinagar, said that due to poor reporting, it is unknown how many of them die from heat exposure in the country.
Summer cooling centers for the homeless, the elderly and other vulnerable populations open every summer in several European countries since the heat wave killed 70,000 people across Europe in 2003.

Ambulance workers on bicycles patrol the streets of Madrid, distributing packages of ice and water in the hot months. However, about 1,300 people, mostly the elderly, continue to die in Spain each summer due to health complications exacerbated by excessive heat.

Spain and southern France experienced unusually warm weather in mid-June last week, with temperatures of 104 degrees (40 Celsius) in some areas.

Climate scientist David Hondula, who runs a new Phoenix heat mitigation office, says with such extreme weather conditions now seen around the world, more solutions are needed to protect the vulnerable, especially the homeless, who are about 200 times more likely to die from protected individuals. from heat-related causes.

“As temperatures continue to rise across the United States and the world, cities like Seattle, Minneapolis, New York or Kansas City that have no experience or infrastructure to deal with heat also need to adapt.

In Phoenix, officials and lawyers hope that the empty building, recently turned into a shelter for the homeless with 200 beds, will help save lives this summer.
McMays, 34, was among the first to move in.

“It can be rude. I stay in shelters or wherever I can find, “said Mais, who has been homeless since he was a teenager. “I can stay outside here, rest, work on job applications, stay away from the heat.
In Las Vegas, teams deliver bottled water to homeless people living in campsites throughout the county and within a network of underground storm drains under the Las Vegas strip.

Ahmedabad, India, with a population of 8.4 million, was the first city in South Asia to devise a heat action plan in 2013.

Through their warning system, NGOs reach out to vulnerable people and send text messages to mobile phones. Water cisterns are sent to slums, while bus stations, temples and libraries become shelters for people to escape from the blisters.
Still, deaths are piling up.

Kimberly Ray Howes, a 62-year-old homeless woman, was badly burned in October 2020 while lying on a boiling roof in Phoenix for an unknown time. The cause of her later death has never been investigated.

A young man nicknamed Twitch died from exposure to heat while sitting on a curb near the Phoenix soup kitchen in the hours before it opened one weekend in 2018.

“He was supposed to move to permanent accommodation next Monday,” said Jim Baker, who oversees the dining room for the charity St. Vincent de Paul. “His mother was broken.”

Many such deaths have never been confirmed to be related to heat and have not always been observed due to the stigma of homelessness and lack of family ties.

When a 62-year-old mentally ill woman named Sean Wright died last summer in a hot alley in Salt Lake City, her death only became known when her family published an obituary saying the system failed to protect her during the hottest July in history, when temperatures reached three digits.

Her sister, Trisha Wright, said that making it easier for the homeless to get permanent housing would greatly contribute to their protection from extreme summer temperatures.

“We always thought she was solid, that she could get through it,” Trisha Wright said of her sister. “But no one is strong enough for such heat.”

World Nation News Desk
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