Helping Those in Need During Heat Emergencies

June 2021 was the warmest June on record in Boston’s history and heat waves have continued to hit records throughout July. While excessively hot weather can be difficult to manage for many, for those experiencing homelessness, the situation is critical.

Those who are outside for prolonged periods, like many of our guests, are at higher risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Many people become dehydrated or develop severe sunburn throughout the summer months and for those with disabilities or medical conditions, struggling with alcohol, or other substance issues, dealing with the heat and high humidity is exceptionally challenging.

What should you do if you encounter an individual who appears to be suffering from the heat?

If you suspect that there is a medical emergency – someone is sweating profusely, their skin appears clammy or pale, they appear disoriented or dizzy, or have fainted – please call 911. If a situation does not appear to be an emergency, but you believe that someone is in need of help, please call 311.

For those who do not appear to be in immediate distress, offering a bottle of water or providing sunscreen, a cap, or a pair of sunglasses are all welcome acts of kindness. Recommending one of the many shaded areas throughout Downtown Boston where people can find respite from the sun can also be helpful. They include the Boston Common, the Public Garden, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the mall on Commonwealth Ave and the Esplanade along the Charles.

The City of Boston also provides a number of cooling centers that are available when a heat emergency is declared, listed here. In addition to the City-sponsored centers, day centers where people go to escape the heat, including St. Francis House. Our fully air conditioned facility is open from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (2p.m. on Sundays and Wednesdays) and guests are welcome to stay for as long as we are open. Here they have access to cool water, food, showers and medical care.

St. Francis House is fully equipped to help our guests cope with heat emergencies, and with help from our community, we can look out for our homeless neighbors and keep them safe from the harmful effects of the heat.