Opinion

Brissa: Triple-digit temperatures impacting homeless people across Valley

Local nonprofit seeks to help those living on Phoenix-area streets

Posted 8/14/22

The people and families living on the streets of Maricopa County are battling for survival against Arizona’s deadly triple-digit summer heat...

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Opinion

Brissa: Triple-digit temperatures impacting homeless people across Valley

Local nonprofit seeks to help those living on Phoenix-area streets

Posted

The people and families living on the streets of Maricopa County are battling for survival against Arizona’s deadly triple-digit summer heat with limited resources available.

At least 9,026 people are experiencing homelessness daily in Maricopa County, according to a January 2022 Point in Time report.

In January, the report found that 56% of people experiencing homelessness are unsheltered on the streets or other public areas at night. Additionally, 44% of people experiencing homelessness are sheltered in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or Safe Haven programs.

Since 2020, the total unsheltered count has increased by 34% percent while the total number of people experiencing homelessness rose 22%. I have watched these numbers increase at alarming rates over the last two years and know that it is crucial to provide every person in our community with solutions.

Experiencing homelessness can be defeating, challenging and life-altering. It’s often a result of circumstances like job loss, domestic violence, divorce, rent increases, or more harmful choices such as substance abuse or addiction, often paired with mental illness.

An estimated 130 unsheltered individuals died from heat-related causes in 2021, according to Maricopa County Department of Public Health. As of Aug. 9, 2022, there have already been another 44 heat-related deaths with 287 more under investigation. During the summertime in Phoenix, asphalt can reach deadly temperatures of 170 degrees. This is the same asphalt that the homeless population must live and walk on daily. It’s painstaking and damaging to those most vulnerable.

As triple-digit temperatures remain for the next few months, organizations like Phoenix Rescue Mission want to make sure there is not a repeat of that number this year.

Phoenix Rescue Mission aims to make a difference in the lives of people and families living on our streets and in disenfranchised communities. By going to where these people are with care and dignity, we can provide for individual’s needs through solutions-driven outreach.

In May, Phoenix Rescue Mission launched its 10th Code: Red Summer Heat Relief Campaign to positively impact the Valley’s unhoused and at-risk population. We provide assistance and solutions to people living on the streets by offering critical resources such as water, socks and hygiene supplies, always paired with caring case management to help them connect with the solutions that can get them off the streets for good.

Many of those experiencing homelessness are surviving in triple-digit heat, from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. Not too long after, socks, shirts and other clothing items begin to wear out. That’s why we are encouraging community members to carry Hope Totes, a hygiene kit with items such as new socks, water, snacks, a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and a Rescue Referral card so they have information to call the Mission if they’re ready for help.

Whether you’re on your way home from work or out running errands, you can easily pass out a Hope Tote to someone in need.

By joining Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Code: Red Summer Heat Relief Campaign, you are at the forefront of bringing solutions-driven change in our community, one person or family at a time.

Our Code:Red campaign will be running until the triple-digit temperatures end. We thank you in advance for your support and for continuing to help our community.

If you prefer to donate items for our Homeless Outreach team to distribute, food, water and all other heat-relief donations can be dropped off at the Mission’s Donation Warehouse, located at 2515 N. 34th Drive in Phoenix.

Discover ways to contribute to this crucial work in our community by visiting phoenixrescuemission.org.

About the author

Ken Brissa is CEO at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.