When the heat index reaches 95 degrees outside or hotter, the District issues a Heat Alert.
During a Heat Alert, the District’s top advice is to:
This is impossible for many in our homeless community. We’ve talked before about how extreme heat can be just as or more dangerous than extreme cold.
With conditions becoming riskier for people forced to stay outside, we need everyone’s help to look out for our vulnerable neighbors. Here are 5 things you can do to help the homeless during a heat emergency.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the most serious conditions than can result from overexposure.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion to look out for are: dark colored urine, pale skin, profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat, muscle or abdominal cramps, dizziness, confusion, and fainting.
If left unaddressed, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Symptoms include throbbing headaches, red, hot, and dry skin, lack of sweating despite the heat, muscle weakness or cramps, rapid heartbeat, rapid, shallow breathing, seizures, and unconsciousness.
If you think that someone is having a hard time, ask how they’re doing!
Introduce yourself and ask their name, and see when the last time they had water was. Have a conversation around how their feeling, and see if they are experiencing any of the symptoms above. If they are, show them where to go! DC has lots of options to escape the heat, see the map below for places in your area.
If someone is thirsty, offer water. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things to do in the heat, and you can make a big difference in someone’s day with $1.50 bottle of water.
If you run into someone who looks passed out in the heat, check to see if they’re ok. If they look like they’re sleeping then let them be, but if they’re unresponsive, remember your Red Cross training and call 911 immediately.
If someone needs help getting out of the heat, call the hyperthermia hotline at 1-800-535-7252. The United Planning Organization (UPO) will send a van and can provide water and transport to the nearest cooling station.
In the event of a heat stroke or if a person is unconscious, call 911 immediately.
Like DC says at the top of the page, the best way to avoid suffering from the heat is to stay inside as much as possible. As the map to the right illustrates, there are many resources available for the homeless to take refuge in and escape the heat.
Click on the slider in the upper left of the map to see more options.
Know the resources in your area, and be prepared to direct someone to their nearest cooling shelter, library, spray park, or shelter.
At Thrive DC, we are on the front lines helping individuals without homes to have the resources they need to survive their situation, like helping them out water bottles, sunscreen, emergency clothing, hats or bug spray.
Whether or not we have these items depends on the generosity of our donors. You can help us by donating these items either in person or through our Amazon Wishlist.
There are other ways to help out too. Supporting Thrive DC financially helps us have the resources we need to help our clients, and volunteering with us gives our staff the chance to work more closely with our clients. The more people we have helping, the more one-on-one attention we can give.
To learn more about DC’s Heat Emergency Plan, click here.
Russeline came to Thrive DC two years ago during a period of crisis in her life. She had no food, no access to clean clothing, and no place to live. She struggled with addiction and was experiencing mental and chronic health problems.
Russeline spent more than 6 years living on the streets and in incarceration with nowhere to go and no one to support her. She came to Thrive by suggestion from her friend and she says the staff at Thrive helped her become a person she is proud of.
At first she only expected a meal, but with the help of Trenett, Jemahl, Nicole, and others, she has found so much more.
Russeline now has a job at a dental clinic, has her health problems under control with support from Thrive, and no longer feels the need to take drugs. Staff at Thrive helped Russeline to get healthy, obtain insurance, and attend job training sessions.
She attributes her successes to her friends at Thrive that literally saved her life. “Without Thrive DC, I don’t know if I would’ve made it. Now I get up every day knowing I’m going to do something responsible.”
Russeline continues to meet with Jemahl and Trenett and receive services from Thrive DC, but she is finally in a place in her life where she feels happy. “I smile 90% of the time now,” she says, “If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
“Most of all, I found friends at Thrive DC,” says Russeline.