Extreme Heat Kills
People tend to think winter is hardest on the homeless. However, there are more homeless deaths in summer than any other season. July, August and September are the hardest months, in part because extreme heat kills!
Deaths in July, August & September 2020, combined, are up 24% over the same time in 2019. Since 2017, when data first came available, as many as 43% of the year's homeless deaths happen from June through September.
Extreme heat is sweeping across the city over the next several days and Toronto’s homeless community is particularly vulnerable and at risk. With limited access to shelter, shade or water and privileges like air conditioning to cool down, heat waves can be deadly.
Most people are aware of the dangers of hypothermia in the winter, but seldom realize the dangers of hyperthermia over the summer months. Heat-related illness can occur when a person’s body is unable to compensate for the increase in temperature and cannot properly cool off. When this happens, the high body temperate may damage the brain or other vital organs and can even lead to death.
The dangers that hot weather poses to the homeless community should be taken as seriously as the cold. While those without a home are already under significant stress from poor living conditions, unbearable heat can exacerbate pre-existing health conditions and lead to other serious problems like heat stroke, insomnia, and dehydration.
Environment and Climate Change Canada predicts that, by the end of the century, southern Ontario could see up to 50 more days a year that hit at least 30 degrees. As such waves become more common, what will be an inconvenience for those with access to resources could prove dangerous for those without.
Haven Toronto recognizes it is vital that everyone have access to the basic human rights of water, health care, and shelter. In extreme heat, the downtown drop-in centre provides clients with free reusable water bottles and access to fresh water, sunscreen and shelter, seven days a week.
While summertime brings additional dangers and problems for those experiencing homelessness, it also brings new opportunities to give back and support those who are at risk and vulnerable in our communities. A donation of water, a baseball cap, or sunscreen will be remembered by those you’ve helped; and you may just save a life in the process.