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Safe havens from the heat

Cooling sites from organizations and government
Posted at 7:38 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-14 22:38:06-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Monday’s temps probably drove you to live your life in the air conditioning. But what about people who have no good way to escape that hazardous heat?

If you're used to Arizona. It's not news that it gets hot, but it is news when it gets extra hot, and when COVID-19 changes how people respond to it.

Blazing hot temperatures cleared out the outdoors, except for the unlucky few who did not have much of a choice.

That includes homeless people. The Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness has been spreading the word about places people can find food, water and shade.

Grace St Paul Episcopal Church is offering those life saving comforts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

William Dodge Jordan Layton is a homeless man who volunteers to help others there.

“I'm in charge of making sure they get a shower that it's organized, and that they assess their needs, and then I try to help them with everything that we have, which is a lot who showers. They can't stay here, but you know that's, that goes without saying, but they can have a shower and they can get some good food, and they can be on their way and help their lives get better.”

Normally Grace St Paul’s offers a food pantry and a cafe where people can get out of the heat; but in the abnormal world of COVID they can only let people in one at a time for those and other important services, and offer outdoor areas with some improvised shade.

Social Services director Jessica Swift says since the pandemic more people have come in for a break from the harsh, hot life on the street.

“So 2019 we did around, I believe it was about 4100 showers in 2019 and in 2020 we did 5600 showers. So that's a really big increase in one year for us, and we see anywhere between 30 to 60 people a day who come for food and services.”

And even in the morning, before the worst of the heat, knowing their visitors, helped them noticed when the temperatures had put someone in danger.

“Someone I know quite well came in and was very out of breath and slurring their speech, and so we sat him down right away and called 911 and, you know, the Tucson Fire Department and our EMTs are very prompt, they all came and they took him in to help him out. So, the heat is real. It's very dangerous and really as a community we need to do whatever we can to help keep people out of the heat.”

MAP: Cooling stations available around Tucson

Late Monday, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero announced the city will open additional cooling centers.