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Region Reaches High Temperatures

June 29, 2012

By Angela Jones Hackley

Vice President of Philanthropic Services, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region

We don’t need to tell you—it’s hot out there. Friday morning the National Weather Service predicted Heat Index values may exceed 105 degrees.  And there’s no relief in sight. High temperatures are forecast to approach 100 through Sunday, and then remain between 95 and 99 from Monday through Wednesday.

We asked several nonprofits in our community what this protracted heat wave means for their clients.

Patty Fugere, executive director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, said “We are particularly concerned about community members who stay outdoors (or are forced to stay outdoors because of limited capacity in the shelter system). Because the family shelters are full, the District is turning away families even if they have no alternative but to sleep in cars or outdoors. This could be especially dangerous for very young children, people with asthma and other serious conditions,’ she said.

In this heat, “residents run a serious risk of hyperthermia—especially those whose body thermostat is off kilter and who therefore dress with excessive layers of clothing,” Fugere said.  Residents can find out where the city’s daytime “cooling centers” are by calling 800-535-7252 or checking with the human services department in your community. If someone appears to be suffering from heat stroke or hyperthermia, call 911.

Shannon Steene, executive director of Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services in Fairfax told us, “As a landlord with 70 units for low-income residents in southeast Fairfax County, we have our HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) guy on speed dial. We have 70 households that rent from us; a quarter of them are people with disabilities or elderly. That is 70 air conditioners that need to be working well.” Good Shepherd is committed to providing a fresh start toward stable housing for vulnerable populations – no matter what the weather.

Amanda Andere, executive director of Fairfax County-based FACETS, adds “We often think about hyperthermia in the winter, but it can happen in the sweltering heat we are experiencing now. Many of the people who are homeless must carry their whole life around on their back and so even walking to a place to cool off or finding a way to work can be difficult.”

Iona Senior Services, committed to helping older adults live well and age well, sent an email blast out Friday reminding the community to check on older neighbors. “We want to make sure older adults have groceries and air conditioning, and that they stay hydrated,” said Meg Artley, director of development at Iona, which is one of D.C.’s designated cooling centers. “This is a lot like a snow storm.”

Gerry Hudson-Martin, the interim executive director of Manna Food Service in Montgomery County, said the organization is distributing water bottles at its headquarters in Gaithersburg as well as six satellite sites in Silver Spring, Germantown, Wheaton and Gaithersburg. Manna has erected canopies to shade people from the sun when they come to pick up food packages. “Because we are increasingly providing our clients with fresh fruit and vegetables, we have been reminding them to keep produce refrigerated so it will last longer in this heat,” he said.

If you are a donor, consider making a gift to one of these groups or another safety-net organization serving vulnerable families and individuals in our community. And as a member of our community, be sure to check on your neighbors.

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