Homeless People in North Texas Are Feeling the Brunt of the Ongoing Heatwave

Extreme Texas heat can be deadly, particularly for those experiencing homelessness.
Extreme Texas heat can be deadly, particularly for those experiencing homelessness. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
Texas has been experiencing higher than normal temperatures since June, and the current 10-day forecast calls for Dallas temperatures to be at least 100 degrees until July 27. Like other extreme weather conditions, high heat can be deadly for homeless residents.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S., and people exposed to extreme heat can suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes.

For the homeless, who might find it difficult to get out of the heat, the extreme temperatures are a dangerous situation. According to a Dallas County and Collin County state of homelessness report from the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, the organization found 4,410 people living on the streets during its annual one-night census this year.

Part of the city’s effort to assist homeless residents in Dallas is to provide cooling stations and give out water.

The city's Office of Homelessness Solutions said some Dallas shelters have recently upped their efforts, including Austin Street Center, which is offering a cooling station in its lobby, and The Bridge, which has expanded capacity to serve more than 500 people.

Wayne Walker, founder of OurCalling, a faith-based organization aiding the homeless population in Dallas, said the group has seen a greater need in the community because of the heat. "We've already had two heat-related deaths this week," Walker said. "We are seeing significant health issues … heat exhaustion and potential heat stroke with folks."

Walker said they had an air conditioning unit fail and had to have a crane come out and replace it. "It is pretty rough," he said. "Our facility is staying open later every day to provide cooling relief."

The group is also offering more heat-related resources collected from the community and passing out items such as sunglasses, sunscreen and water.

"Those are items, really, not just to provide immediate relief, but also [to] build in relational equity so we can really help with the placement process and get people off the streets," Walker said.

While the heat is dangerous for those without homes, anyone without access to air conditioning can be affected by the heat. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state's electric grid, issued a second conservation appeal to Texans on Wednesday, urging them to conserve as much energy as possible.

In a press release, ERCOT cited record high electric demand as one of the factors causing the need for conservation. "The heat wave that has settled on Texas and much of the central United States is driving increased electric use," the agency wrote. "Other grid operators are operating under similar conservation operations programs as ERCOT due to the heatwave.”

The Office of Homeless Solutions also provided a comprehensive map of the various cooling stations throughout the city and provided information from DART about the My Ride North Texas Guide, which residents can call to speak to travel navigators who can connect callers to transit information.

The Office of Homeless Solutions said Dallas residents could help out the homeless population by passing out water, imploring them to seek shelter at the cooling stations or providing them with bus passes to get to the stations.

“The Office of Homeless Solutions Outreach team, as well as area partners, are conducting outreach and passing out cold water to individuals who may refuse to go to a shelter or cooling station,” the OHS wrote. “We are continuing to identify additional ways for residents to access these services and how we can offer more services to those already accessing the cooling stations.”
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Kate Pezzulli, an editorial fellow for the Observer, is a graduate student at the Mayborn School of Journalism at UNT. Besides storytelling, she likes sailing, working on Jeeps, camping, potting and baking. Voted No. 1 friend in an apocalypse.
Contact: Kate Pezzulli