Homelessness and Poverty Don’t Take Vacations
While most of us associate summer with carefree days of rest and relaxation, there’s no vacation from homelessness. And the men, women and children who are homeless and in poverty don’t have the option of taking a vacation from it.
Homeless Feel the Heat
So where can a homeless person escape the extreme temperatures during this time of year? They are often deemed unwelcome in the cool comfort of malls, libraries and other public facilities.
And while most of us are trying to beat the summer heat at the pool, sitting under a shade tree or sipping a glass of ice tea close to the air conditioner, the homeless are struggling daily just to meet their most basic human needs of food and shelter. Every day, all year long, this struggle to survive continues. The feelings of despair and hopelessness are a constant reminder of the circumstances they are in. They begin to feel that there is no escape.
Jeff, a big man with a big smile, says he prays to God for relief each night before he goes to sleep outside. “It can be quite disturbing, especially if you don’t have some kind of living quarters,” he says.
Those who live in the heat say it makes them irritable, disoriented and unable to eat. The constant sun, they say, is a giver of near-constant headaches. And street life under the summer sun can bring additional health risks as well—from lack of water or food spoilage.
Summer heat is brutal for those living on the streets. Homeless run the risk of dehydration and heat stroke.”
“In times of extreme temperatures, the body loses fluids and electrolytes. These fluids must be replaced in order to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which can be a life threatening condition,” said Sally Burbank, M.D. and Mission Board Member.
A Place of Refuge
“If you have a place to cool off, summer is great”, says Ronnie Lockridge, Director of Transient Services for the Nashville Rescue Mission. “But for those forced to live among the elements, the hot weather can be fatal. We provide a place out of the sun and keep plenty of liquids available for people in need.”
With temperatures likely to be extreme this summer, Lockridge says giving bottled water to those in need is both thoughtful and necessary because it could prevent dehydration and possible illness. In addition to providing water, the Nashville Rescue Mission also serves three full meals each day.
“We encourage our staff to look for any signs of heat related illness among people coming in off the streets,” said Ed Grimes, Director of Transient Operations. “We hope that if people come to the Mission initially to escape the heat, that they will end up joining our life recovery program. That is the backbone of everything we do at the Mission.”
Grimes added, “Most people think nothing of putting change in a drink machine, or stopping at the convenience store to pick up a fountain drink. But if you’re homeless on the streets of Nashville, you don’t have that luxury.”
With your support, the Nashville Rescue Mission can help lead the homeless men, women and children off the streets and into the new life God has planned for them.
4 Ways You Can Help
1. Don’t hand out money. Money could be used to buy drugs or alcohol that may inhibit a person’s ability to sense the harmful effects of exposure to heat and sun. Instead, consider giving bottled water and refer the person to an organization such as the Nashville Rescue Mission that provides food, shelter and other assistance.
2. Food is often in short supply at homeless shelters during this time of year, so consider a donation of canned goods.
3. Clean, light and loose clothing is helpful for those who have been on the streets and decide to come to the Mission to clean up.
4. Travel sized toiletry items are always needed and usually in short supply at the Mission.