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Hot days create dangerous situations for unhoused population in Cleveland

Advocates hand out vital essentials
Hot weather in Cleveland impacts Homeless
Posted at 5:56 PM, Jul 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-05 18:28:00-04

CLEVELAND — Some places in Northeast Ohio reached 90 degrees on Monday. It's expected to be warm again on Tuesday. With summer temperatures setting in, advocates checked on the homeless population. They said temperatures like this are dangerous for the elderly and unhoused population.

And when it gets hot, Dean Roff said what the homeless need is simple.

"It is absolutely a survival game," Roff said about what it's like being unhoused in Cleveland extreme weather swings.

Roff sees donations and support flood in during the cold winter months, spurred on by the holiday giving season. But he said people can lose sight of the homeless during the warmer months.

"Things are nice out. It's a little warmer, so it's not on people's minds," he said. "But if you are out there in a tent, it's 90 degrees, not a lot of ventilation. You haven't had a shower in days, it's just as bad."

Roff, the Executive Director of Homeless Hookup CLE, has a mobile hygiene unit to grant access to vital resources to the homeless in the Cleveland area. Inside the mobile unit is a barbershop, a shower, a sink and a change of clothes. The shower and new clothes are vital for surviving.

"You're walking all day long," he said.

With so much walking from resource to the next, Roff knows one thing is needed to keep people safe in the heat.

"I'm giving away so much water," he said. "We're handing out three, four bottles a person because we see that person once and they have to take that with them the rest of the day."

Roff said he hands out about 150 meals a week, except when the temperatures rise.

"It's too hot to eat," he said.

Not only is water an essential lifesaving tool, but so is access to a cool place.

"Whether it's an extreme cold or extreme heat, it's hard on those who are unhoused," said Michael Parry with The City Mission. "And it presents a real health risk."

Parry said hundreds of people seek help and shelter with the organization.

"This kind of hot, humid, oppressive weather can be devastating to them, can be really, really harmful and put their life at risk," he said. "So, while it may not seem like a lifesaving gesture to provide an air-conditioned indoor space when it's 90 degrees outside, for some it actually is to make the difference between whether or not they live or die."

Michelle Snowden, a manager with the United Way 2-1-1 Healthlink, said getting into a cool space is important for people who have shelter but may not have air conditioning.

"I think it's really important for us to realize that it's truly an honor and a privilege to have those things right, a fan, an air conditioner and electricity," she said.