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Extreme heat poses challenge for ministries serving area homeless

With Kansas City temperatures rising the 100s this week, City Union Mission is just one ministry serving the homeless that says the heat is a deadly situation. The heat wave is forecast to be the most extreme in the region in several years.

The risk of heat-related illness—including death—for homeless neighbors will skyrocket. According to the Centers for Disease Control, extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States. For vulnerable populations like the homeless, excessive temperatures can cause heat-related disorders like heat exhaustion, heatstroke, severe sunburn and cramps and dehydration that can quickly turn from dangerous to deadly.

“Prolonged exposure to the oppressive heat with inadequate hydration, protection and proper hygiene, creates life or death situations for our homeless population,” said Dr. Terry Megli. “Homeless individuals who suffer from chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, asthma and cardiovascular disease are at a greater risk for severe heat-related illness—even death.”

Dehydration can occur with just 30 minutes of sun exposure during extreme heat, causing nausea and trouble concentrating. Homeless individuals taking certain medications or consuming alcohol are at greater risk for dehydration in warmer weather. A person’s body temperature can rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes of exposure to extreme heat causing heat stroke, which can result in death or permanent disability if left untreated.

In addition, personal hygiene, which is always a challenge for the homeless, becomes even more dangeorus because sweat-drenched clothing can cause heat rashes, infections and more severe conditions such as gangrene.

On days like today, when temperatures are forecasted to reach 100, City Union Mission has activated their Extreme Warm Weather Procedures at both their Men’s Center and Women & Family Center. Emergency bed capacity will be implemented. Current overnight guests are allowed to arrive early for check in, and families with children are able to stay inside the facility during the day. Walk-up guests are offered an opportunity for an assigned bed pending capacity.  If accommodations are not available, information will be provided about local daytime cooling centers and transportation. To check overnight availability, individuals can call the Mission’s Hotline at 816-474-4599.

“The challenges of heat are real and every bit as dangerous as the extreme cold is during the winter.  Our passion at City Union Mission is to protect our communities most vulnerable members”, said Megli. The Mission is seeking financial gifts and donations of bottled water, box fans, new socks, foot powder and sunblock to care for homeless neighbors.

More information about City Union Mission’s comprehensive programs and services to the homeless and hurting can be found at cityunionmission.org.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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