1. Interact with someone and check in on how their feeling in the heat, carry portable sized items like gold bond, sunscreen, or a spare bottle of water to share with a neighbor experiencing homelessness during the summer
Jack Read, Volunteer & In Kind Coordinator at Thrive DC, says that you can help by “carrying sunscreen with you, you’d be surprised how many of our clients would ask a stranger for a simple tube of sunblock. When people think about being asked for something by someone on the street, most of the time people assume money or food. Carrying sunscreen can be a really huge thing for someone” and that it’s important to “try not to assume what people need or will ask for.”
2. Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Heat exhaustion symptoms: general weakness, increased heavy sweating, a weak but faster pulse or heart rate, nausea or vomiting, possible fainting, pale, cold, clammy skin
Heat stroke symptoms: elevated body temperature above 103F (39.4C), rapid and strong pulse or heart rate, loss or change of consciousness, hot, red, dry, or moist skin
Alicia Horton, Executive Director at Thrive DC, shares that; “it’s most important that people are aware and that if you see someone on the street who looks like they may be in danger of heat exhaustion or heat related stress/illness than call an ambulance or the shelter hotline so they can get to a cooling center or hospital. There are cooling centers and different facilities available in the city where folks can get out of the heat and stay healthy from what can be pretty torturous summers in this area.”
3. Utilize resources like the interactive map of cooling centers in the District and free transportation hotline
Horton says, “it’s always interesting to me when people don’t associate the same kinds of weather related dangers in the summertime as people do in the wintertime. I think it’s really important that people understand that it’s just as dangerous for folks who are unsheltered or homeless when the weather hits extreme heat temperatures.”
“I honestly worry a little bit more about clients in the summertime because sometimes I don’t even think they realize the danger. When it’s cold, it’s more obvious and people seek shelter but when it’s hot people think they may be okay or don’t hydrate sufficiently. A lot of times, people will continue to wear clothes that they don’t want to lose. So then they’re very layered which is dangerous in high heat and there are not as many resources available when it’s hot.
I want to impress upon people how dangerous it is and how important it is for folks to have opportunities for respite from the heat.”
You can find cooling centers near you by using the Interactive Map of Cooling Centers in the District.
4. Donate in kind items to help our clients experiencing homelessness, we’re a source of refuge during the summer heat and community all year round. We give out hundreds of in kind items including toiletries, socks, sunscreen, bags, and more each month.
“We help to prepare our clients for dangerously hot weather and exposure to the sun with sunblock/sunscreen and visors; some of these things we all take for granted during the summertime”, says Horton.
“Even things like sunglasses can be very important for somebody, particularly our senior clients when it’s really bright outside. Lighter wear clothing that we can make available is always nice to have on hand like a good white t-shirt. There’s nothing better than a nice clean white t-shirt. Another thing that we go through a lot of are towels and washcloths. People want something to relieve from sweat so it’s harder to keep in stock during the Summer since they go fast.”
Jack Read, Volunteer and In-Kind Coordinator at Thrive DC, shares that, “Sunscreen is THE thing and we need all types and SPF’s. Our clients use sunscreen for different reasons, sometimes it’s as simple as skin dryness since it also doubles as lotion and is easy to carry. We also need goldbond foot powder. We need it year round but especially in the summer because our clients are walking in the heat and their feet are getting sweaty just like ours do. Foot powder is huge because it helps cuts down on discomfort and odor, a small but crucial item. The other one and this is genuinely huge: flip flops. We’ll take new and gently used if they’re in very good condition. It’s too hot to be wearing some of the shoes we provide clients during the winter.”
5. For free transportation to a cooling center for yourself or someone else, call: 202-399-7093 or 311. For more information on the District’s heat emergency plan, please visit heat.dc.gov.
If you’re interested in volunteering or how to get your group involved, email Jack at [email protected]. To volunteer at Thrive DC, there are just a few simple steps: sign up for a volunteer orientation that works with your schedule on our website, come to the orientation, complete a background check, and last but not least- start volunteering with us!