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Heat Wave Testing Arizona Homeless Relief Effort

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July 16, 2009

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Arizona's recent extreme temperatures are straining the resources of cities, churches and nonprofit organizations as they work to provide heat relief to the state's growing homeless population. Tempe vice mayor Shana Ellis chairs a regional committee overseeing the effort. She says it's not just the days above 110 degrees, but also the 90-degree nights that cause dehydration - and worse.

"On the streets, people's bodies do not have a chance to cool off. People can get extreme heat illnesses when that low temperature doesn't really go low."

In 2005, the Phoenix area had at least 30 heat-related deaths in July alone. So far this year, Ellis says, there have been only two, but she cautions that water donations will be needed through September.

John Landrum, director of Salvation Army's Project HOPE, says hydration centers are handing out water faster than ever.

"We're encouraging people to take water with them so they can stay hydrated during the day. Not just one or two bottles here or one or two bottles there - we're asking them to take four or five bottles at a time."

Landrum says they have other needs, in addition to water, such as sun block and hats.

"They need bus tickets, outer light clothing, neckerchiefs. People think of water when they donate, but other items are needed just as much."

Ellis, chair of the Maricopa Association of Governments Committee on Homelessness, says all 76 Phoenix-area hydration stations are stocked with bottled water, but that may change as the extreme heat continues.

"We are giving that water out quite quickly, so we definitely are accepting donations for the next few months."

A map of donation locations is available at www.mag.maricopa.gov.


Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ