When temperatures spike, the healthiest option is to stay indoors. But that leaves the city’s homeless especially vulnerable.
That’s why, all summer, workers from Project H.O.M.E pass out water and check up on the homeless throughout the city. During extreme heat waves, the city calls a Code Red, and shelters stay open all day, letting people in even if there isn’t a bed for them.
David Holloman, the coordinator of Homeless Services at the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health, says the city depends heavily tips from the public.
“Over the last few years we’ve tried to use a more targeted approach,” he said.
Anyone can call the city’s homeless outreach hotline at 215-232-1984. And “when a concerned citizen or a business community calls in and reports there’s a significant number of homeless people that may be at risk,” he said, outreach workers know where to focus their efforts.
There have been no reports of heat-related deaths among the homeless, Holloman said.
Last year, the city released a report on a study of the leading causes of death among the homeless. It found that hyperthermia was not a major cause.
Project H.O.M.E Outreach Director Carol Thomas said that many cope by heading to parks or air-conditioned train stations.
But being out in the elements clearly takes a toll, Thomas said.
“Living on the street shortens your overall life expectancy,” she said.