There is no doubt about it, heat and homelessness are a deadly combination.
Even when the number of heat alerts and extreme heat alerts is on the decline in Toronto, the number of deaths in the summer continue to spike, by over 36% in 2017 versus the previous three months. That according to City of Toronto stats from the last year and the last decade.
Contrary to popular belief,
summer can be
harder on the homeless
Toronto saw 7 heat and extreme heat alerts in 2017, down from 22 the previous year and 12 in 2015.
Yet deaths of homeless people in 2017 increased from 22 in April, May and June, combined, to 30 in July, August and September.
Over-exposure to extreme heat can lead to excessive stress on the body resulting in illness and life-threatening heat stroke. This is especially true of the older homeless demographic. Seventy-five percent of Toronto’s homeless are men. Thirty percent are over the age of 60.
According to Environment Canada, summer temperatures in Toronto often peak around 3 and 4 in the afternoon. At that same time, most shelters in the city are closed offering few options for someone who is homeless.
Haven Toronto is a drop-in centre in the downtown core. Unlike shelters, Haven Toronto is open during the day. The facility invites elder homeless men in from the extreme heat, to be part of a community, to socialize and enjoy a healthy meal in an air conditioned space.
Heat-related deaths are preventable. Yet extreme heat events have been associated with sudden increases in mortality, especially among older adults, those who are chronically ill and socially disadvantaged people.
Vulnerability to the health impacts of extreme heat can be traced to a combination of factors including poor health status, social isolation and low income.
On the hottest and deadliest days of the year, an organization like Haven Toronto offers a life-saving alternative for those less fortunate. Here's how you can help the homeless beat the beat.