Seven Ways You Can Help People Experiencing Homelessness During Hot Weather
During the summer season, while many enjoy a well-deserved break with loved ones, it’s crucial to remember that for people experiencing homelessness, this time brings added challenges. Without proper shelter or relief, extreme heat poses significant risks such as dehydration and heat exhaustion. It’s important to show compassion, support local organizations, and raise awareness to create a more inclusive community that addresses the unique struggles faced by people experiencing homelessness during summer.
Extreme heat is a health risk. Heat-related illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat rash and muscle cramps. Other heat-related symptoms include dizziness, nausea, fainting, headache, rapid breathing and heartbeat, and extreme thirst.
Although heat-related illness is preventable, extreme heat contributes to an average of 120 premature deaths every summer in Toronto. People experiencing homelessness are especially at risk.
Here is how you can help:
ONE CALL CAN SAVE A LIFE
Heat stroke is a medical emergency and requires urgent medical attention.
Call 911 if you see someone who is either unconscious, confused, or has stopped sweating. While you are waiting for help, try to lower their temperature by moving them to a cool place or applying cold water to large areas of their skin or clothing.
Water is essential to prevent dehydration on very hot days. In fact, dehydration is a major threat to people who don’t have a home and ready access to water.
Water can be a lifesaver so have a chilled water bottle on hand and pass it on to someone you see who might be in need.
GIVE BASIC ITEMS TO SURVIVE THE HEAT
Often, people who are homeless don’t have the basic items needed to survive the heat. You can donate directly to people you meet who are in need or donate to a charity that provides supplies. The most needed items are sunscreen, a water bottle, nutrition bars, sunglasses, a hat, a handheld fan, a coffee shop gift card, and sanitizing wet wipes.
TELL THEM ABOUT A COOL SPACE WHERE THEY CAN GO
The best way to deal with the heat is to stay out of it. The City of Toronto has activated its Heat Relief Network, which is comprised of more than 550 publicly accessible locations that people can use to beat the heat throughout the day. The network includes locations such as libraries, and community and civic centres. An interactive map of locations can be found at www.toronto.ca/CoolSpaces.
Fred Victor welcomes anyone without a home or shelter to visit any of our Drop-In Centres, shelters, or Respite Centre to escape the heat. Our sites offer relief from the heat, access to water, a light snack, and trained staff on-site.
Tell the person you are concerned about how to get to the closest safe space.
CONNECT THEM DIRECTLY TO A CHARITY
If you see someone sleeping on the street during a heat alert, and you feel safe doing so, ask if they are okay and have a place to go. In Toronto, the Streets to Homes Program provides street outreach services to help people who are sleeping outdoors by addressing their immediate health and safety needs.
Fred Victor welcomes anyone in need of a place to cool off, a bed, a meal, or water. During extreme heat warnings, our Fred Victor Keep Cool initiative springs into action – with staff on the street handing out water and sunscreen, and harm reduction kits, and directing people to safe, cool spaces nearby.
If you or someone you know needs street outreach, call 311.
DONATE MONEY TO A CHARITY
Make a financial donation to an organization that helps people who are homeless. Financial donations allow charities to act fast and respond to people’s needs more efficiently.
Donations to Fred Victor provide support to homeless people all year round and through the most difficult weather conditions.
Every day, more than 3,000 people use our services – and we are responsive to the unique needs of each person who comes through our doors.
Beyond helping people who require immediate assistance, Fred Victor is developing long-term solutions that move individuals and families off the streets and into stable housing.
SPREAD THE WORD
Share this article widely with your family and friends. We can all help people in need.
It is our responsibility to help our neighbours during hot weather months and make sure that people experiencing homelessness are okay.
At Fred Victor, we can all do something to help those who need it most.