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Helping the homeless beat the Cleveland heat

With more than 23,000 homeless in Cuyahoga County and only 1,200 available shelter beds, local organizations are helping those living outside stay cool.

CLEVELAND — High temperatures and stifling humidity don’t just make for a miserable day outside - they can be downright dangerous, even deadly. 

"There’s no reason for anyone to be out in the heat if they have no place to go," says Major Thomas Applin of the Greater Cleveland Salvation Army.

If you’re someone who tends to bounce from your air-conditioned home to your air-conditioned car to your air-conditioned workplace, consider yourself lucky to have constant relief from the outdoor heat. Many in our homeless population have to rely on shelters or cooling centers. Some, reluctantly.

"They're very private about their situation most times. They almost come when they’re desperate and when it’s just unbearable. I think most try to endure and bear it," says Applin.

Excessive heat causes more weather-related deaths in the US than hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes combined – over 1,500 deaths each year from anything from heat stroke to dehydration. So what’s being done to help Cleveland’s homeless during high heat and humidity?

"Cooling centers," Applin says, are number-1. "Salvation Army has 5 of them around Cleveland. Keeping cool is of the utmost importance. We’ll also be providing water and light snacks every day they’re with us. And that service is available every day that’s over the temperature of 85 degrees."

If a homeless person can’t or won’t come to a shelter or cooling center, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless – or NEOCH – steps in and goes out to them - sending outreach staff to hand out cold water, sunscreen, food and other supplies. 

The 2019 US Census shows roughly 23,000 people experiencing homelessness in Cuyahoga County alone, with fewer than 1200 beds available in Cleveland shelters. Temperatures this week will reach 90+ degrees.

"I’m standing here in the sunshine right now and I’m feeling the heat," said Applin during our outdoor interview. "I can only imagine what it’s like if you have no place to go. So, knowing there’s some place to go can be very helpful in difficult times."

SALVATION ARMY COOLING CENTER LOCATIONS:

  • West Park- 12645 Lorain Ave., Cleveland
  • Ohio City- 4402 Clark Ave., Cleveland
  • Miles Park- 4139 E. 93rd Street, Cleveland
  • Collinwood- 17625 Grovewood Ave., Cleveland
  • East Cleveland- 1507 Doan Ave., East Cleveland

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