The Dangers of Being Homeless in The Summer
Summer heat can be hard to cope with under the best circumstances, but what would it be like to live without basics that many people benefit from, such as air conditioning and shelter, access to drinking water, daily showers, or even a change of clothes?
As temperatures continue to rise, we look at some of the significant dangers that the homeless community faces in the summer.
For those who are homeless, it is incredibly difficult to cool off on a hot day. Turning on the AC during a heatwave isn’t an option. With pandemic restrictions, restaurants or stores that someone could once turn to in order to get out of the sun, are closed or limiting inside access. People living on the street are at increased risk for hyperthermia and heat stroke, which in some cases, can be deadly.
Staying hydrated during the heat is important. Dehydration can worsen pre-existing health conditions or lead to heat stroke. Having ready access to fresh water is a basic necessity that many people who are homeless don’t have; finding a working water fountain in the city is very rare.
Harmful to Medications
Medication meant to address issues related to mental illness can actually create other issues including how the human body reacts to heat. Antidepressants can prevent the body from sweating or prevent the blood flow to the skin from increasing. This increases the risk of overheating. The heat can also exacerbate any breathing problems, disproportionately affecting people who are homeless who often suffer from respiratory infections.
Without access to showers and laundry or a closet full of clean clothes, it is very difficult to maintain proper hygiene while living on the streets. Foot hygiene can become an especially serious problem as the heat can lead to severe athlete’s foot, pitted keratolysis, ingrown toe nails, and more.
Bugs like mosquitoes and ticks multiply during the summer, and while they can be annoying for everyone, they can be especially dangerous for homeless people trying to find a safe place to sleep in a park or wooded area. Without adequate protection like bug spray, these insects can keep someone up all night, cause infection, or spread diseases. As many homeless people face barriers to healthcare, early signs of related illness can go unrecognized or be ignored.
Lack of Sleep
It is harder to find somewhere to rest during the day due to increased outdoor traffic and even overcrowding in the streets and parks. Many people experiencing homelessness choose to sleep during the day as it can be dangerous for them to sleep at night. When the city is busy and loud in the summer months, it’s hard to get a good rest which is harmful to someone’s physical and mental health.
People experiencing homelessness are more likely to be provoked and attacked in the summer months as foot traffic, and even crimes of opportunity like theft and assault, become more frequent.
Open seven days a week, Haven Toronto provides elder homeless men with some of the tools necessary to survive the summer, including reusable water bottles, access to fresh water, sunscreen, laundry, showers and more. Haven Toronto’s Weather-Ready Care Kits, available for donation in their online store, provide clients with resources for every season including the extreme heat of summer and extreme cold of winter.