June 26, 2015 - 4:30 PM
VERNON - While the hot weather forecast has many of us planning fun ways to beat the heat, members of the homeless population are thinking about something else entirely: survival.
Imagine heading into 40 Celsius weather with no air conditioning, no hat or sunscreen, and no water. That’s the situation Vernon’s Cammy LaFleur Street Outreach Program and other agencies are working hard to prevent.
Jessica, a Vernon street nurse, has been busy handing out bottles of water, hats, and sunscreen to those who need it most as the mercury rises this weekend.
“We don’t always realize when the elements are extreme, either in summer or winter, when you have no place to go, it’s incredibly difficult,” Jessica says. “We get to go in and out of air conditioned cars and air conditioned offices, and I don’t think we realize what it can be like to be outside for hours, or all day.”
Sunstroke and dehydration are serious risks for those without shelter from the heat, and those dangers only increase when individuals are consuming drugs or alcohol. Severe sunstroke can have lasting medical effects, and possibly result in death, Jessica says. A big focus of the outreach program is to educate people on the symptoms of sun-related conditions, how to prevent them, and when to seek medical attention.
There are a few places people can go to get out of the sun in Vernon, such as the Upper Room Mission and Gateway Shelter. But the Mission is only open Monday to Friday, and Gateway is only available to registered clients, leaving many people, particularly on the weekends, with few options for cooling off.
“It’s unfortunate most agencies are closed when we will be possibly hitting 40 C. It’s a real issue,” Jessica says. “We’re trying to tell people, take sun screen and water, and try to find shade during the day.”
The provincial government provides funding for additional shelter beds during extreme winter weather, but there is no summer time equivalent, though the risks can be just as great, Jessica says.
Contrary to the belief shelters are less full in the summer because it’s warm enough to camp outside, the John Howard Society continues to see a high demand for beds and is at capacity most nights. Program director Kelly Fehr says they are consistently forced to turn away between 5 and 10 people a day.
“The demand is actually a tad higher during the summertime,” Fehr says, adding part of the increase is related to the influx of seasonal workers.
Anyone wishing to make donations of bottled water, hats or sunscreen — partially used is fine — can drop items off at the North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society at 3100 32 Avenue in Vernon. You can also call 250-545-3572.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015