Extreme heat posing health concerns for Ottawa’s homeless population
Ottawa residents were trying their best to keep cool under dangerous conditions on Sunday, with temperatures making it feel like 40 degrees.
For those who live on the streets, escaping the heat is proving difficult.
Places like the Ottawa Mission are coming to the rescue by providing some much-needed relief.
"We had to go have a cold shower every couple of hours," said Leo Brennan about using the amenities at the shelter.
Experts say the extreme heat is worse in downtown areas because of what they call an "urban-heat island-effect".
"That basically absorbs the heat and makes the surfaces much hotter and they re-emit the heat so overnight. It could be 12 degrees hotter in urban settings than other areas," said Joanna Eyquem, managing director of Climate Resilient Infrastructure at Intact Centre at the University of Waterloo.
For the homeless, who often don't have the means to leave the core that translates to being trapped in all of the worst weather conditions regardless of the season.
"The elements are always a challenge," said Shepherds of Good Hope President and CEO Deirdre Freiheit. "When you don't have a home you don't have anywhere to go, you have to find shelter."
"Our worry is when we see someone asleep on the sidewalks," said Ottawa Mission CEO Peter Tilley. "If you see someone laid out on a lawn, especially in the downtown area on the sidewalk, just go up stand over them and ask if they’re okay."
The Ottawa Mission’s street team makes their rounds every half hour in the neighbourhood, handing out water and keeping an eye out for signs of heat stroke, severe hydration or painful sunburns.
"It’s not that bad but it can be stressful," said Matt Macson. The 26-year-old says finding an escape from the extreme heat even for a moment makes all the difference.
"I’ve only been here a month you just kind of… you find an AC in the Rideau Centre sometimes, you know," he said.
Temperatures are expected to cool down this week but with summer sticking around a few more weeks both shelters are accepting donations. Money goes a long way, but they also say cases of water or boxes of freezies would help as well.