Cornerstones’ Embry Rucker Community Shelter operates a cooling center for the homeless as well as emergency shelter during severe storms and summer weather. If you see someone that may need help, please call the shelter at (703) 437-1975.
The homeless have limited options when it comes to finding places to cool down and ways to carry or obtain enough fluids to stay hydrated. They spend extended periods of time in the sun, or at places like bus stops or in tents. Some spend their time in hot cars as their safe haven and the interiors can reach 120oF or more in the sun. In the summer, night time temperatures remain high and offer little relief. The homeless also walk long distances or use public transportation to get to work, interviews, and medical appointments — these factors combine to make summer a very dangerous time for our vulnerable homeless community.
Many have heard the term “hypothermia”, a condition that occurs when the body can no longer heat itself and the core temperature reaches abnormally low levels. It is often brought on by extreme cold weather, but can also occur in moderate, damp and windy weather conditions. Fewer people, however, know the term “hyperthermia”, which occurs when the body dangerously overheats, typically due to extreme hot weather conditions.
The summer hyperthermia season causes great challenges for our homeless neighbors. Those who are homeless often suffer from multiple chronic health issues and are being treated for conditions which require the use of medications. These medications put them at greater risk of suffering from heat stroke than the average person. Even such common medications as stimulants, sedatives, antihistamines, diuretics, and antidepressants can increase the risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and cramping.
Chronic medical conditions and the medicines used to treat them can cause a variety of heat related problems. Diabetes reduces the ability of the blood vessels in the skin to expand, and lowers the amount of blood circulating through the body, thus the ability to cool down is lowered. Sweating rates are reduced by diabetes and those suffering from the disease are more likely to experience heat exhaustion and heat cramps. Advanced age and obesity exacerbate these issues and raise the odds even further for experiencing serious heat related illness. Diuretics and antihistamines can lead to faster dehydration. For those with heart issues, rising body temperatures force the compromised circulatory system to work harder as it tries to pump blood to cool the body. Rising body temperatures can also lead to disorientation, dizziness, and even permanent brain damage. Some medication levels are hard to regulate as the body becomes dehydrated and they concentrate at dangerous levels in the system, causing adverse side effects.
Cornerstones distributes bottled water and bagged lunches to those in need throughout the day and evening. Your donations of bottled water and Gatorade can help our vulnerable homeless neighbors through a very dangerous time this summer.
ERCS is located at
11975 Bowman Towne Drive
Reston, VA 20190