HEALTH

Heat waves bring concerns for heat-related illnesses and the homeless population

Jun 28, 2022, 4:15 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:16 am
Rising temperatures across the country are putting the homeless at risk of heat-related death. Many...
Kseniya Kniazeva, executive director of Nomad Alliance, speaks to Jason Gove about obtaining a new wheelchair for him on Rio Grande Street in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. A large homeless encampment has formed on the sidewalk where the Road Home shelter existed until it was demolished in January 2020.Kseniya Kniazeva, executive director of Nomad Alliance, speaks to Jason Gove about obtaining a new wheelchair for him on Rio Grande Street in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. A large homeless encampment has formed on the sidewalk where the Road Home shelter existed until it was demolished in January 2020. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Heat waves in Salt Lake City and across the country could be causing deaths among the homeless. An obituary on The Salt Lake Tribune website, says a woman named Shawna Wright died on the streets of Salt Lake during the hottest July on record in 2021. Temperatures reached triple digits that day. 

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, USICH, reports an estimated 3,131 individuals experiencing homelessness as of January 2020, in Utah.

Furthermore, the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, said in 2020, the number of adults experiencing homelessness on any one night grew by 7%.

Randy Chappell, Director of basic needs for Catholic Community Services, said it is important to think about homelessness year-long and not just during the winter months. Chappell said he sees sick people come into the Weigand Homeless Resource Center every year because of the heat.

The Center is one place people can cool off.  Chappell said they are giving people water to take with them after meals.  

Chappell also said they always see a drop in donations during the summer. The Road Home also says they are in need of donations, including reusable water bottles, sunscreen, chapstick, and aloe. 

Other states, like Maricopa County, AZ have experienced a significant increase in homeless heat-associated deaths. According to Maricopa County Public Health, there were 339 heat-associated deaths reported in 2021. A 70% increase in deaths since 2019. Out of the 339 people that died, 130 were homeless. 

Cooling Centers near SLC 

There are around ten cooling centers in the Salt Lake area that provide water and AC. The Tenth East Senior Center, Salt Lake City Sports Complex, Sunday Anderson Westside Senior Center, Northwest Community Center, and River’s Bend Senior Center are the closest centers to downtown Salt Lake City.

More information on cooling centers in Utah can be found here

Preventing heat-related illnesses during heat waves

The CDC has a couple of tips for preventing heat-associated illness: stay cool, stay hydrated and stay informed. 

Other tips include choosing lightweight and loose-fitting clothing and remembering to wear sunscreen to keep your body’s temperature cool.

The CDC also said when exercising outdoors, pace yourself. 

Do not leave children in any vehicles, cars can heat up very quickly, with or without a window cracked. Also, don’t forget to keep your pets hydrated with a shady spot and lots of water. 

Furthermore, stay hydrated by drinking fluids before you become thirsty. Especially if you are active in the heat.

Keep in mind that you sweat salt and minerals from your body, therefore ensure you replace them with something such as a sports drink. That said, check with your doctor first if you have a chronic condition, said the CDC. 

Lastly, stay informed of extreme heat alerts through the local news and be aware of resources in your area. 

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Heat waves bring concerns for heat-related illnesses and the homeless population