Valley heat especially dangerous for those experiencing homelessness

May 31, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: Jun 12, 2023, 11:02 am

A homeless person sits in the median at an intersection Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Phoenix.  (AP...

A homeless person sits in the median at an intersection Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX – Summer temperatures have come to the Valley, and those experiencing homelessness are most at risk of the heat’s adverse effects.

With the clearing of the tent-filled area of Phoenix known as the Zone in progress, one doctor stresses just how hard caring for those without shelter or stability can be.

“Without any type of cooling, these patients on the street are susceptible to severe dehydration and everything that comes with that, including heatstroke,” Dr. Mark Bueno, the Outreach Medical Director with local nonprofit Circle the City said.

Heat-related illness can lead to death — last week Maricopa County reported four heat-related deaths so far this year — with more than a dozen other possible cases under investigation.

The heat beating down on asphalt and concrete can also lead to serious burns.

“Quite a bit of the homeless population doesn’t have shoes or they’re sleeping out on the pavement, and they suffer from severe burns because of it,” Bueno said. “Those wounds develop and they can become infected, and then they become harder to treat.”

The heat can also make pre-existing conditions worse, and make those experiencing homelessness more susceptible to non-heat-related illnesses.

“If they have medications that are not stable under high heat, that medication probably isn’t going to be as effective as it can be,” Bueno explained. “[The heat] can exacerbate other medical conditions that they may have.”

Medications that need a temperature-controlled environment include life-saving substances like insulin.

Even if he can help with the immediate symptoms caused by high temperatures, Bueno said treating people experiencing homelessness gets incredibly difficult during summer months.

“We can give them water… but the moment I discharge them from my evaluation, they’re still stuck on the street,” he said. “Unless they’re able to get somewhere, they’re going to have continual issues with the heat.”

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Valley heat especially dangerous for those experiencing homelessness