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Heat Takes a Toll on The Homeless

Last summer, Nashville saw a near-record number of 90+ degree-days. In fact, between June 1 and August 30 the day’s high hit 90 or above for a total of 45 days, and in many cases, the heat index hit triple digits.

Hot weather can be hard to handle even under the best circumstances, but what would it be like to live without the luxuries most people enjoy during the summer such as air conditioning, daily showers, or even a change of clothes? The challenges faced by the city’s homeless population during periods of intense heat are similar to the challenges faced by everyone else. The most apparent difference is in access to amenities, including air conditioning and drinking water.

“Most of us can go into an air-conditioned building, or get into an air-conditioned car anytime we want to,” said Rev. Glenn Cranfield, president and CEO of Nashville Rescue Mission. “We have water in the refrigerator or can stop at any convenience market and pick some up. That simply isn’t the case for most of our homeless neighbors.”

That can be debilitating for much of the area’s homeless population, he said, especially when showers are hard to come by, there’s a lack of public drinking fountains, and many businesses shun the homeless.

“Many of those experiencing homelessness are already at a greater risk for major medical issues,” said Cranfield. “These men, women, and children deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion, regardless of whether their situation may be attributed to mental health issues or addiction. As we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, the Mission is doing what we can to help the homeless stay safe during hot weather. In addition to handing out bottled water and keeping an eye out for medical emergencies, our doors are open to everyone, especially during periods of extreme heat.”

“Our dayrooms are air-conditioned, and have ample seating,” said Cranfield. “Guests can come in, get out of the heat for as long as they need to, and have access to cold bottled water. We want to help keep people well hydrated and off of the hot streets.” “No one should die on the streets of Nashville due to the heat or lack of water,” he added. “We don’t ever close. Even if someone has been barred from our facility for previous infractions, we remove those restrictions when the temperatures are dangerously high.”

For someone like Joe who’s been homeless for years, the Mission provides a refuge from the heat a reprieve from the streets. When Joe’s wife died from stage 4-kidney cancer in 2015, he thought his life was over, too. After 18 1/2 years of marriage, he had lost his wife, his best friend, his soul mate.

He has no memory of jumping off the bridge and shattering the bones in his legs and feet. “I spent two months in the ICU,” said Joe. “Then another nine months in a nursing home.” After being released from the hospital, he had nowhere to go and no one to turn to.

Since the accident, Joe struggles to walk, especially long distances. He mostly uses a wheelchair to get around. Unable to work, Joe is going through the process of getting on disability.

“I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t come to the Mission,” said Joe. “I know from experience it can be dangerous living on the streets. The Mission has provided me with a safe place to sleep, and all my basic needs are being met. I couldn’t ask for more. I’m grateful.”

It’s because of YOU and your support that Joe and many others like him have a safe place to turn to when temperatures rise. Here they will find help in the form of water, shelter, clothing, and food—but more importantly, they will find hope in Jesus Christ.


If you would like to help others like Joe, click here.

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