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.
Every 10 years, the federal government embarks on a massive undertaking that involves counting everyone who lives in the United States, called the census. This colossal data collection effort informs federal funding for many different programs, including school lunches, mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. The data is also used to determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. The lower the count, the less representation in government and the less funding toward vital programs.
Many of these programs are critical for people who are homeless or housing insecure, which is why Thrive DC is concerned that everyone will indeed be counted, especially our clients. “Nationally, it is estimated that every year over 3.5 million people are homeless,” says Alicia Horton, Thrive DC Executive Director. “The disastrous impact of this pandemic is likely to raise that number even higher, which is why we need to make sure there are enough resources to address the needs of the most vulnerable. A lot more new people are queuing up for food assistance. We cannot underestimate the economic impact of this public health crisis.”
The systemic inequities that plague our society are reflected among the homeless population, which is why it is even more critical to capture the data and ensure there are services in place. For example, according to Census Count, in 2010 African American family members were seven times as likely to be in a homeless shelter as white family members. Veterans were also disproportionately represented among those experiencing homelessness, making up about nine percent of homeless adults in 2016. While addiction and mental health conditions are common.
Persons experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity are included in the “hard to count” group identified by the Census with some of the lowest response rates. Not having a permanent mailing address or access to the internet are some of the barriers that make it especially difficult to count this population. As is residing in hard-to-reach places, such as emergency shelters, transitional housing or being in the streets. Young children are traditionally hard to count and, according to Census Counts, about 22 percent of people experiencing homelessness are children.
“Before Covid-19 forced us to reduce our onsite programs,” continues Horton, “we had planned a series of educational workshops for clients on the importance of being counted by the Census. Our computer room was also open, so they could fill out the survey online. All our plans went out of the window when the pandemic hit us, and we had to pivot to adjust to a new reality.”
The good news is that the Census 2020 data collection effort has been extended from July 31 to October 31. How best to count the homeless population in light of Covid-19, is still under review but there is increased coordination with all stakeholders who interact regularly with this population. On our part, we will continue to educate our clients on the need to get counted and find ways to facilitate that process through sister organizations that manage shelters and transitional homes. Our mission is to ensure no one falls through the cracks and the Census is one way to do that. Do your part. Get counted.
The Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality has compiled some of the information contained above and more in Counting People Experiencing Homelessness: Guide to 2020 Census Information.
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
Andre moved to DC last year in November from Tampa, FL. He had heard about a good job and had a friend he could stay with for a little while until he got on his feet.
But when he got here, both the job and the friend fell through.
That was hard.
Andre became homeless with no friends, no money, and no prospects for a job. He got involved with drugs while struggling to cope with his situation, but they only helped him sink further into frustration and depression.
Fortunately, it was some of those friends he was getting high with that told him about Thrive DC. Normally reserved and quiet, Andre checked out a few places before settling on Thrive DC.
He didn’t talk to anyone at first, but the hospitality of volunteers and staff drew him out bit by bit. He finally started opening up to Gabriel, the Morning Program Coordinator & Substance Abuse Counselor, and Gabriel encouraged him to come to group therapy.
It took a while for what Gabriel was saying during group to sink in. But Andre kept coming back to Thrive DC because of the encouraging staff and how helpful the services were.
This was the only place he could take a shower or do laundry.
This became the place he checked his mail.
The food here was good and plentiful.
One day Andre looked up in Gabriel’s substance abuse group and realized he didn’t want to get high anymore. He wanted to get clean, and he wanted to finish his college degree as a PC specialist!
Andre is still living in a shelter, but he’s attending school and will finish his degree next year. He’s been working on computers since he was 14; his dream is to one day own his own business and help customers with designing web pages.
He’s been clean now for four months. Andre is still coming to Thrive DC for services, and uses the computer lab to do his homework. For the first time in a long time, he’s excited about his future.
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!
Thrive DC is excited to have our very own music therapist! This is the first time we've had someone in this position, and it's been exciting to see clients react to expressing themselves in a different way. We love having Jael, and can't wait for our first concert!
I've always wanted to use my skills to bring joy and help empower individuals who are traditionally marginalized in our communities.
Music is something that has impacted my life on a personal level and so sharing that with others is something that brings me a lot of joy.
When I was job searching, I saw an advertisement for Thrive DC on indeed.com. I researched the organization and thought that it was exactly the type of place I want to work.
Music-based activities are new to the evening program, so when I initiated the program's first sing along I was concerned that no one would come.
As the hour progressed our sing-a-long circle got bigger and bigger, and when I looked around the room I saw that many people who did not even join the circle were singing. The music really united the room!
Recently I had a conversation with a women in the evening program who expressed how she wants to be seen as being more than just her physical needs.
Food and shelter are a big needs that need to be addressed for the homeless population, but also their humanity should be nurtured. That is why I am so happy that there are so many other services, such as haircuts, writing work shops, and the creative arts are offered!
I am passionate about developing relationships with others and treating every human well. I think that would make the world such a different place, if all of us at an individual level just treated others with respect and kindness.
I am in love with buttermilk waffles, but breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and most hot breakfast food appeals to me.
I studied jazz voice and regularly attend blues jam. I occasionally perform at folk festivals.
To learn more about music therapy at Thrive DC, you can contact Jael at email@example.com.
The deck was stacked against Roxann. A high school dropout, she had turned to drugs and had spent time in prison. She found herself in transitional housing with no job – or prospects for a job. She wanted to get her life back on track, but the odds weren’t in her favor.
Fortunately, Roxann’s case manager knew about Thrive DC and suggested that she check out our Real Opportunity culinary arts training program. The thought of an intensive six-month program was daunting though: “I’d never actually completed anything in my life before" said Roxann.
It wasn’t easy for Roxann, beginning with creating her resume. “I never learned how to use a computer. It was so frustrating.” But Thrive DC’s staff helped her every step of the way. Learning skills in our kitchen was easier for Roxann, and at times more meaningful.
When the Real Opportunity participants helped serve the breakfast they’d just prepared, Roxann would look at who she was serving and think, “It wasn’t long ago that that was me.”
Finally, Roxann’s externship at Open City made her feel good about getting up and going to work. It gave her a sense of purpose, especially since she hadn’t held a job in over 15 years. The Open City staff welcomed her with open arms. She felt supported. And when Roxann, who is also a breast cancer survivor, needed time off for doctors appointments, Open City’s Chef Carlos made sure she could take the time.
Roxann has been drug free for three years and has high hopes for the future. When asked at her Real Opportunity graduation ceremony what was next for her, she took the question quite literally and said, “I’m leaving here to go enroll in night school to finish high school.” After that, Roxann plans to give back, to help those who are homeless and struggling just like she was.
Our Morning Program is aimed at providing our clients with fresh food, emergency groceries, personal care items, showers, laundry and mail.
Recently, American University students conducted an assessment on our male clients to get a better grasp of their needs and backgrounds. Not only has this report helped our team to further understand our clients but it has created a better awareness of DC homelessness for everyone.
To help you get a sense of who we work with, here are 5 things you should know about our clients.
We are located in Columbia Heights, a region with a large Spanish population often overlooked when it comes to Spanish programs.
Wanting to address this growing issue, our bilingual Job Developer David Vicenty has implemented a Spanish Employment Workshops to help our Hispanic clients.
Twice a week, we provide two hours of working one-on-one with them to improve resumes, look for jobs online, and assist with completing job applications.
Despite DC being internationally recognized as a city with opportunities, DC’s homeless are growing and many are staying homeless.
Though we do provide a variety of programs to all of our clients, our mission is to prevent and end homelessness. That being said, this study is proving just how important it is to continue addressing an often neglected population.
Actually, more than 30% are low-income individuals who are struggling to keep afloat. This can be especially difficult when buying groceries since healthy alternatives are often expensive.
Luckily, our Fresh Food Fridays provide a free farmer’s market for all of our clients. Therefore our place becomes a haven for many wanting vegetables, fruits, pasta and much more!
In fact, 80% of our clients believe they have what it takes to land a job. However, many of them are currently not working yet and are looking for jobs.
We understand just how essential jobs are and help through our Employment Support and Real Opportunity Training Program. It’s through these programs that our clients are able to make a real change in their lives.
If you're interested in helping people find jobs, contact the Employment Specialist Jemahl Nixon at (202) 503-1521 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not being able to pay for transportation can be very hard to our clients since this often means they miss major appointments like going to the doctor or job interviews.
However, over one-third of our clients use tokens which allow for a free pass to board the Metro or Metrobus. Yet this continues to be an important issue. In order to help prevent homelessness, we have to provide those who cannot afford to use the Metro or bus the opportunities to get to job interviews.
If you enjoyed getting an insightful look into who we serve and how we help, join the Thrive DC team either through volunteering or donating. To get started, contact our Community Relations Manager Greg Rockwell at 202-503-1528 or email@example.com.
Click here to read more about the assessment.
Four years ago, Ellen’s daughter volunteered in the computer lab at Thrive DC. She told her mom that she would enjoy working in the kitchen. She’s been a Breakfast Program volunteer ever since!
On a typical Thursday morning, Ellen loves to help in the kitchen – unless she has to cut onions.
Ellen also enjoys greeting and signing in clients. She gets to see them again and again, watching clients become her friends. She’s happy to see clients and clients are happy to see her.
When asked why people should volunteer at Thrive DC, Ellen said, "There’s a community here."
The staff consistently shows respect and kindness to their clients. They are also organized, having a broad range of services and referrals like showers, laundry, and a mailing address.
It’s clear to Ellen that we’re in it for the long haul.
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!
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.