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Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat


PHOENIX (KYMA, KECY/AP) — Thousands of homeless people suffer in the extreme Arizona heat this summer which has caused hundreds of weather-related deaths.

Earlier this month, Phoenix's temperatures went up to 114 degrees (45.5 Celsius) and causes a heat wave.

"During the summer, it's pretty hard to find a place at night that's cool enough to sleep without the police running you off," says Chris Medlock, a homeless Phoenix man known on the streets as "T-Bone" who carries everything he owns in a small backpack and often beds down in a park or a nearby desert preserve to avoid the crowds.

"If a kind soul could just offer a place on their couch indoors maybe more people would live," Medlock mentions at a dining room where homeless people can get some shade and a free meal.

Weather-related deaths are mainly caused by excessive heat which some has contributed to 1,500 deaths annually and half of those deaths are of homeless people.

Due to global warming, the temperatures have been rising in most parts of the country along with the drought in certain places creating more intense, frequent and longer heat waves.

Within the country including Phoenix, 130 homeless people were among the 339 individuals who died from heat-related causes in 2021.

"If 130 homeless people were dying in any other way it would be considered a mass casualty event," says Kristie L. Ebi, a professor of global health at the University of Washington.

This situation has become a serious problem occurring in the United States and the heat is affecting everyone in the country.

Officials and advocates in Phoenix hope that a 200-bed shelter for homeless people will help save lives this summer and prevent anymore deaths.

"It can be rough. I stay in the shelters or anywhere I can find," says Mac Mais, a 34-year-old who has been homeless on and off since he was a teen. "Here, I can stay out actually rest, work on job applications, stay out of the heat."

Nongovernmental groups reach out to people and send warning text messages to mobile phones about the heat.

Water tankers are dispatched to slums and bus stops, temples and libraries become safe places for people to escape the heat but it still doesn't stop people from dying

In October 2020, a 62-year-old homeless woman, Kimberly Rae Haws was severely burned on a Phoenix blacktop and the causes of her death were never investigated.

There are so many homeless people dying and their deaths are never confirmed to be heat related.

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Faith Rodriquez

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