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.
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.
The Ward 1 Non-Profit Networking Group is a way to gather, network, and bring in any service providing non-profits in the Ward 1 area. Non-profits can be headquartered in or providing services to clients in Ward 1.
Thrive DC’s Communications Coordinator Mariah sat down with Kira, Development Manager, to talk more about her vision for the group and the goals as we move forward into action planning through working groups and strengthen connects between non-profit service providers.
What are the goals of the getting non-profits together in Ward 1 and how will it build bridges between service providers?
On the surface, it’s networking and meeting people who are all working in client services in this area. It’s important for nonprofits to network in order to decrease duplication of services and learn what other people are doing to expand ideas. Meeting together helps us to make sure we see who already has a voice at the table and ensures we are actively working on bringing in groups and voices missing from the conversation. The important outcome is that it allows us to bring together a variety of expertise and experiences in a way one organization would never be able to do on their own.
What Goals do you have for the year?
Basic networking for non-profit employees and for the non-profits themselves. Professional and personal development helps decrease burnout and increase the likelihood that someone will stay in their role or bring great skills elsewhere in the nonprofit sector, which in turn helps our clients succeed.
Building shareable resources and group support of clients. We can work together to share or promote resources so that clients know what’s going on across the Ward, whether that’s a reading program or emergency food services. The group collectively decided that a main resource guide would be beneficial because it would allow all of the organizations to get their services out and accessible for clients.
Group Advocacy. Working as a group of nonprofits allows us to strengthen our voice for policy advocacy and client support. Every nonprofit shows up in some way to advocate for their clients, whether that’s through public statements about government policy or using their social media to ask for support on important issues. As a Ward 1 non-profits collective, our can voices are much stronger when voiced together.
Data collection is huge. There are ways we can identify trends and see what is happening across the Ward. I think we can get some really smart results out of simply coming together and discussing what types of data would improve our services and our ability to advocate for our clients. If we are able to work together to get a better understanding of issues across the Ward, that will begin to influence programs and services to reflect what is needed.
Tell me more about the sub committees and what they’ll be working on.
Our new subcommittees will allow people from different types of organizations to tackle some of our goals for the year, and ensure that we have a wide selection of voices on each issue. We’ll still meet quarterly as a group to check on progress and see where different subcommittees need help.
The subcommittees are currently: Professional Development/Workshops, Networking, Group Projects, and Data Collection and Analysis.
If you are a Ward 1 nonprofit, contact Kira at Kira@thrivedc.org to get more information on the Ward 1 Nonprofit Networking Group.
Participating non-profits in the Ward 1 networking Group are:
Urban Village Tenant Association
According to the US State of Homelessness report, 564,708 people experience homelessness on any given night—meaning they sleep outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.
Amongst 32 of the largest US cities, DC has the highest homelessness rate with over 8,000 homeless individuals, or 124 homeless people for every 10,000 residents in the general population.
The rate in DC is almost double the national average.
The face of homelessness is not an old man-- it’s actually a young child. HUD reports that on any given night, over 138,000 of the homeless in the US are children under the age of 18.
In our nation’s capital, families make up 52% of the homeless community.
With rent prices soaring across US cities, many low-income people turn to subsidized housing for a place to sleep.
But in recent years, HUD’s budget has been slashed by over 50%, resulting in the loss of 10,000 units of subsidized low-income housing each and every year.
Over 90% of homeless women are victims of severe physical or sexual abuse, and escaping that abuse is a leading cause of their homelessness.
Slipping in and out of homelessness, studies find DC women stay in a low-barrier shelter a median number of 27 nights.
Many homeless people rely on non-profits like Thrive DC for daily hot meals and showers. But with government funding cuts, these organizations need your help fundraising and donating.
Just $26 provides organizations like Thrive DC with a full month of hot showers for their homeless clients. You can also see your donations in action by volunteering with Thrive DC.
And if you encounter a homeless person on the street and want to help right then and there, print out or pick up these cards that include info about how to get any sort of help they may need.
Consider helping out your community today
When Charlie lost his job he knew exactly where to go.
Charlie was born and raised in the District, and he’s known about Thrive DC ever since it was called the “9:30 Club” downtown because it served breakfast at 9:30 AM. Whenever he was down, hungry, or lost his ID, Thrive DC was there as a place he could count on.
This time was no different.
The day after he lost his job Charlie was at Thrive DC asking about the employment program. He was there every day working with our job coaches to set up an email and rebuild his resume.
While he was here, Thrive DC’s emergency services kept him going. Services like meals and grocery bags helped him stretch out a thin budget until he could get back to work.
Between Charlie’s determination and his job coaches at Thrive DC, the hard work paid off. Less than two months after losing his job Charlie was hired full-time for his first ever supervisor position! Not only did Charlie bounce back from unemployment, he’s now doing better than ever.
“Ya’ll are a great organization,” Charlie said when asked about Thrive DC. “If you need real, true help…Thrive DC got it.”
Have you ever thought about what it’s like to be homeless in a DC summer? Imagine - the same blazing sun and oppressive humidity but no air-conditioned home or office for escape.
For about 8,000 individuals in DC this is their reality. However, there are places you can help them find to stay cool and healthy.
To help people who are especially vulnerable to things like heat stroke, DC has something called a heat emergency plan. What is it? Whenever the temperature gets above 95 degrees, cooling centers are activated all over the district.
These facilities offer air-conditioned spaces where people can rest and recover. Keep in mind: these are only open to the public during a heat emergency, and not all facilities are alike.
Use the map below and become a cooling center expert! Not only will you know where you and your family can duck in out from under the sun, but you can also show people suffering in the heat where to find some relief.
Note: If you find someone suffering from heat exhaustion, call the hyperthermia hotline by dialing 311. Someone will come pick them up and take them to a cooling facility.
If a person looks like they’re having a heat stroke, call 911 immediately! For less serious situations, such as being slightly overheated, you can direct them to the nearest resource on the map below.
These are the general cooling centers open to anyone Monday - Friday from noon to 6 PM and are marked by red thermometers.
These are cooling centers that open specifically for homeless individuals during a heat emergency and are marked by grey bursts of wind. Be sure to check the map to see when each facility is open!
These are cooling centers for senior citizens. These are especially designed for seniors without access to air conditioning and are marked by yellow suns.
Spray parks are perfect for anyone who is a little overheated and just needs to cool down for a while. You can find a spray park in practically any part of the city by clicking on the blue showerheads.
The last layer shows the location of public libraries throughout the District. While not specifically part of the heat emergency plan, they are important resources for homeless individuals and oases of air-conditioning.
So, how can you tell if a person needs a cooling facility? This can be a bit tricky. But, the adjacent graphic is a great resource for you to use. Remember: if someone is suffering from heat exhaustion call 311. If someone is suffering from heat stroke call 911!
It's out. The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness has posted the 2016 Point in Time report, the annual snapshot of what the homeless community looks like in DC. Click the picture to the right to read it!
In response to the daunting problem of affordable housing in DC, our Mayor has mounted an admirable 82.2 million dollar effort to preserve and create approximately 804 units of affordable housing. This housing is designed for residents making between 30-80% below the area median income.
The Mayor’s plan is certainly better than nothing and will help those who are lucky enough to be first in line and eligible for the housing offered. However, many, many more will be left behind without even the hope of being able to work their way out of their circumstances.
For example, the city’s Point In Time count of homelessness in 2015 estimated 6,500 people who were currently homeless. While we applaud the effort to increase affordable housing for even one family, we have to understand that these housing units represent a mere drop in the bucket of required assistance.
Even if every unit of new housing established by the city were dedicated to the homeless community, this would only help 12% percent of the identified homeless persons in DC.
In other news, a new study published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) shows it is impossible for an individual working full-time at minimum wage to rent even a basic apartment. The NLIHC found that individuals working in the District of Columbia would need to make $23.65/hour to afford a one bedroom. Someone making our current minimum wage at $10.50/hour would need to work two full time jobs just keep a roof over their heads.
For poor individuals, let alone single mothers with children, it is simply not possible to work hard enough to afford adequate housing.
This study represents a very sad truth that even 82 million dollars is not enough to solve our housing problems. The approach to solving housing instability has to be multifaceted and include elements which allow individuals the ability to become self sufficient.
First, we as a city (and country!) must decide that people deserve to earn a living wage. We must also commit to creating ample opportunities to earn that living wage, and we must insure that there are sufficient affordable and decent dwellings in which to live.
Finally, we must provide the necessary and consistent supports for people to achieve and maintain their lives. It makes no sense to provide a person transitioning from homelessness or housing instability a beautiful new home if they do not have what they need to maintain it. These kinds of support range from ongoing case management, to accommodations for physical disabilities, to job development and more.
Thrive DC believes that every individual deserves a safe place to sleep at night, employment that allows them to afford that place, and external support to help when times get rough. The District’s new commitment to affordable housing is commendable, but will be ultimately insufficient without broader systemic change.
Last week Mayor Bowser's administration asked a judge to lift their obligation to house homeless families in private rooms. Homeless advocates were surprised, since there had been no warning that such a measure was needed. It's a testament to how great our challenge is to solving homelessness in DC, where there are more families and individuals without a place to stay than ever before.
Below, our Executive Director Alicia Horton responds to the current homelessness crisis.
Challenges abound! The problem of individual and familial homelessness is a complex problem that is compounded by ever increasing numbers and an on-going urgency that literally impacts one's ability to survive.
On its face the answers seem simple: get everyone housed in a decent, affordable, and supported environment. But making that seemingly simple solution a reality is more than a notion. The new administration is learning what advocates and those working at the ground level have known for some time, that there are no quick and easy solutions.
Close shelters and the question arises, where will those families go? Stop providing hotel space, where will new homeless families go? The weather is life threatening, where will we put people who need to come out of the elements? Where are the resources to provide housing for all? Can low - income individuals and families afford and sustain homes in our Nation's Capital? How will we provide support to vulnerable individuals and families once housed? These are but a few of the complex questions that impact the growing numbers of homeless people in our region.
The solutions are systemic and will never be found in the fast, turn around responses fueled by crisis and campaigns. The answers lie in long term societal changes like living wages, affordable mixed communities, supported services, housing developments, viable employment opportunities, effective mental health systems and supports, affordable and accessible healthcare, meaningful rehabilitation and reentry services, and these are just to start!
Until we begin to turn the wheels of real systemic change we will forever run behind the fast, inefficient solutions that keep us in this perpetual cycle of crisis. Our community deserves real change, the homeless we serve deserve permanent solutions. Let's start the work of really ending homelessness with long range and innovative systemic strategies built to last.
Alicia Horton has been Executive Director of Thrive DC for six years, and before that was Director of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence for 13 years. She has her JD from Catholic University and her MPH degree from Tulane. Alicia is a passionate advocate for DC’s homeless community and has been nominated for a seat on the Interagency Council on Homelessness. If you would like to support her nomination, you can fill out a ICH nomination for Alicia Horton and email it to the ICH Executive Committee (Darrell.firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than February 20, 2015.
One night a year hundreds of volunteers in DC walked through all the neighborhoods, alleyways, parks, and woods for one simple purpose: to physically count every homeless person in the city.
Started in 1983, the Point In Time (PIT) homeless count was created to finally get an accurate sense of how big the problem of homelessness really was. Before then, estimates of homeless persons in the US ranged wildly, from the millions to hundreds of thousands. To get more accurate data, federal agencies decided to make a count of all homeless persons in a specific place at a specific time.
Today, the PIT count is huge coordinated effort between the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and local nonprofits. While every city that receives HUD funding is required to make a PIT count every two years, Washington, DC makes it an annual tradition. Every year, during one night in the last week of January, hundreds of volunteers go out with surveys in hand from 10:00 PM – 2:00 AM counting the people they find outside and asking basic demographic questions. Everyone in shelters and at homeless day programs like Thrive DC are counted as well. The answers to these questions help determine funding priorities for the upcoming year.
The PIT count is done the last week of January because it is the time when shelters are expected to be the most full, making it easier to get an accurate count. Especially in DC, where the city is legally required to provide shelter when the temperature is below 32 degrees, the population sleeping outdoors should be much smaller, easier to find, and more manageable to survey in a limited time.
The survey is designed to be as quick and informative as possible. While it asks basic information like race, sex, and age, it also makes a point to ask persons in their own words what the reason for their homelessness is. The survey also asks if someone is living with medical conditions, receiving any kind of financial assistance, and whether or not they are a veteran.
Everyone! Local homeless service providers act as team leaders and outreach specialists, but volunteers come from all walks of life, with even some homeless persons acting as advocates for their own community. Homelessness is an issue that affects all of us, because it represents a failure of the safety net we rely when tragedy strikes. The volunteers gathered last night bore witness to our commitment to end homelessness in DC not just for those who are chronically homeless, but for everyone who finds themselves without a place to stay at night.
Cold! But it was heartwarming to see everyone come out to support an end to homelessness. More than 300 volunteers stepped up in 2015, six times more than the 50 who were doing the PIT count just a few years ago. Even Mayor Bowser came and said a few words.
Surveying the homeless members of our community at night was a humbling experience. Volunteers were able to see exactly how meager sleeping arrangements were, talk to couples huddled together for warmth, learn people’s names, and hear their stories in their own words.
While the PIT count is an important strategy for shaping homelessness policy, it’s also a powerful experience of meeting our city’s most vulnerable members and seeing where they live. It’s our annual trip out to the margins, where we seek out the people who are too often ignored during the daytime.
This spring, after all the data is collected and tallied, we will have a better sense of what homelessness looks like in DC (no PIT count can be entirely accurate, since many homeless individuals and families stay with friends, family, and in their cars, avoiding the count and going uncounted). But if the PIT count interests you, I encourage you to get involved with your local homeless service provider. We need your help as volunteers, and would like you to get to know the people we serve.
A few weeks ago I posted a list of myths about homelessness. As an organization that provides services to men and women experiencing homelessness and that engages over 2,000 individual volunteers each year it is important to Thrive DC that we are able to help our volunteers to have a better understanding of homelessness. I hope you take a few minutes to read over the list of myths below, and the facts behind them, and let us know what you think. Have you ever felt like one of these myths was true? Where do you think these misconceptions come from? (more…)