The past few weeks have brought Boston some extremely hot days. Most of us can manage to escape the heat. We can turn up the AC or turn on the fan. We can cool down with a soda from our fridge. Sit under the shade in our backyard and dangle our feet in the kiddie pool. But for those without a place to call home, there are many dangers associated with summer. Dehydration. Heat exhaustion. Heatstroke.
In addition to these established risks, COVID-19 amplifies the risk of hot weather. People at risk from high temperatures may also be vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. The impact of coronavirus restrictions also poses new problems for those experiencing homelessness. Access to drinking water (many public water fountains are turned off) and air-conditioned public buildings, like the public library, have been restricted. Social distancing and hygiene measures might be compromised if people share bottles of water or gather together to stay in the shade. For those who are living in poverty but may have a home of their own, that home may be a small, cramped room with inadequate cooling.
Extreme heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States. As a result, being prepared and acting early are key to protecting people’s health, especially considering the high-risk factors and vulnerability of the community we serve at St. Francis House.
When the temperature skyrockets, the team at St. Francis House goes above and beyond to ensure the safety of the individuals who rely on our services to survive long summer days:
Emergency Shelter Response
Air Conditioning: St. Francis House has several air-conditioned spaces to ensure a peaceful and relaxing environment where guests can find refuge from the heat. For example, guests can sit in our Atrium, or explore our Resource Center, both providing a safe, comfortable alternative to spending the day on the street. The Resource Center features a library, telephones, and computers with Internet access, vital tools for keeping in touch with loved ones, and job-hunting.
Hydration, Meals, and Social Distancing: To reduce lines and minimize close contact, the Dining Room is open and meals are served all day. We are increasing the number of hot, nutritious meals available for our guests, and still preparing takeaway containers so they can be eaten anywhere in the building – or even taken outside under a shady tree.
We are in the process of serving cold breakfast, coffee, and juice immediately, ensuring those who do not stay in night shelters have access to comfort and nourishment as soon as they enter our refuge first thing in the morning. Water is available all day long, and sandwiches are always prepared to be taken at the end of the day.
Proper Clothing and PPE: Year-round, men and women can receive clothing at St. Francis House. During COVID, we’ve ensured that the emergency clothing supply purchased by our team includes summer clothing such as cotton shirts, baseball caps, drawstring shorts, and light, nylon jackets. We continue to distribute over 400 face masks each day to our guests.
Toiletries and Personal Hygiene: In our Resource Center, anyone can sign up to take a cool shower, 7 days a week, and toiletries are available. Every day our guests need access to toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, soaps and shampoos, razors, menstrual items and more, and can always get what they need at St. Francis House.
In addition to these necessities, we’ve begun distributing sunscreen, bug spray, and aloe vera, as well as combs, face cloths, and more. These items are critical to surviving the summer sun.
How can you help?
Click here to support our summer efforts. We’ve created a Summer Needs wishlist through Amazon that includes critical clothing and toiletries, in addition to chapstick, sunscreen, bug spray, reusable water bottles, and other things that can bring our guests comfort as they navigate the summer season.
If you know of someone on the street in need of help, Pine Street Inn’s daytime outreach van hotline is 866-910-7463. If the situation is an emergency, please call 911.
And remember — stay cool!