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“Is this weather ultimately going to take somebody’s life?”: Homeless population struggling with extreme heat

With temperatures on the rise, health experts advise staying indoors, but that is not always possible for people living out on the street.
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 4:59 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - With temperatures on the rise, health experts advise staying indoors, especially during the hottest parts of the day, but that is not always possible for people living out on the street.

For Joseph Buzzetta, the Executive Director for the Central Louisiana Coalition, he understands the challenge of keeping the homeless population safe during the summer months.

“Is this weather ultimately going to take somebody’s life?” asked Buzzetta about the reality he faces with the heat in Central Louisiana.

Buzzetta said there are approximately 120 people locally in the homeless population that they have identified, but noted that those numbers could be even higher. He said during extreme weather months, like we are experiencing now in the summer, the number of homeless people in our community increases.

“Homelessness is a health problem to the people who are out there,” said Buzzetta. “Everything that we deal with from a walk from your car to wherever you are trying to end up, they deal with that magnified all the time.”

The homeless coalition goes out once a week with their outreach program to give out water and other needs, but said the main worry is still finding shelter for each person to get them out of the sun and avoid heat-related deaths,

Buzzetta said when he and his team go out to the homeless camps, they often find people with heat-related illnesses and experiencing heat exhaustion.

“If somebody is struggling with mental health or addiction, we want to deal with those issues, but you can not really deal with those things if somebody is too thirsty to move,” said Buzzetta. “We are always making sure we are really looking at the person in their environment, but also stressing to everybody involved that until we can get them off of the streets and into some kind of housing, this is always going to be a challenge that we deal with.”

According to a recent article from the Associated Press, the heat is the cause of some 1,500 deaths each per, and advocates estimate that half of those deaths are in the homeless population. In an interview with KALB, Buzzetta said that there have not been any reported heat-related deaths in the local population this year. He said to keep people safe, they need more donations with items such as water, deodorant and body powder, especially with the forecast calling for triple digits this week.

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