202-737-9311 | info@thrivedc.org

Escape the Heat

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.

Heat Emergency Plan

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.

General Weekday Cooling Centers

These are the general cooling centers open to anyone Monday - Friday from noon to 6 PM and are marked by red thermometers.

Emergency Homeless Cooling Facilities

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!

Public Housing Cooling Centers for Senior Citizens

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 in DC

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.

Public Libraries

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.

The Most Important Thing

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!

Summer is now in session and temperatures are rocketing up. What does that mean for people without a home to retreat from the heat?

Unfortunately, many homeless individuals don’t have access to water or air-conditioned rooms and become at risk for severe sunburns, hyperthermia, heat stroke or other health hazards.

These risks to a vulnerable population are avoidable and there are several things we can do to help. It is up to all residents to learn how to respond in these situations.

Read below for five concrete things you can do to help the homeless you meet outside!

Interaction Is A Great Start

Don’t be afraid to hand out water bottles or critical summer necessities.

Summer necessities include travel-sized sunscreen, water bottles (with ice), bug spray, and Gold Bond. You can have a couple on you or easily store them in your car.

Not only is this helping people in a direct and tangible way, it also gives you the opportunity to talk with someone and see how they’re doing.

The better you know people you may see regularly on the street, the better you’ll be able to assess if something is wrong the next time you meet them.

Know Where The Cooling Shelters Are

Guiding a homeless person to the nearest shelter allows them to be aided by experts within the field, ones that can provide them short-term and long-term resources and help. Libraries are also great for a drink of water and a cold building.

When it’s 95 degrees or more outside, DC opens up cooling shelters to offer more relief during the day. While many homeless may know where the regular shelters are, these special cooling shelters can go unnoticed. Pay attention to DC Heat alerts to know when these extra resources are available.

See the map above for cooling shelters, homeless shelters and libraries in your area.

Ask The Experts For Help

If you see someone in danger of heat-related stress, contact the hyperthermia hotline at 1-800-535-7252. The hotline can provide van transportation for a homeless individual to one of DC’s cooling centers.

During a heat alert, these shelters are activated on weekdays, and can provide water and a cool space for the homeless.


Not only should you locate your nearest shelter but feel free to help out!

Shelters are always in need of supplies, but some items are especially needed in the summer. You can help today with water bottles, new socks, sunscreen, bug spray, hats and visors for our clients.

To help us prepare and be ready for when our clients need us most, also consider a one-time or monthly gift. Your support helps us when we’re busiest during the height of summer and the dead of winter.

Another way to help out is by organizing a donation drive. For more information, contact our In-Kind Coordinator at (202) 503-1528 or inkind@thrivedc.org.

One Call Can Save A Life

If someone appears to be unconscious or passed out, local businesses and residents should not hesitate to call 9-1-1 immediately.

Don’t ignore the situation. Especially on a hot day, dehydration can happen quickly and even lying on the sidewalk can potentially lead to severe sunburns.

If you’re wrong, and the ambulance comes when it’s not needed then it’s just a waste of gas. But if you’re right, your call could save someone’s life.

1525 Newton St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 737-9311

Client Hours:
Tuesday - Friday
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM | 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Staff Hours: 
Monday – Friday
8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
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