Heat warning means triple threat for those living rough
LONDON, ONT. -- As many as six people have died on London city streets in the last seven days, including at least two overdose deaths in a homeless encampment on Bathurst St. outside the Salvation Army Centre of Hope.
That’s according to the centre’s executive director, John De Actis.
“These are people who have moms and dads and brothers and sisters so, regardless of how they’re living or where they’re living they’re still people that we’re concerned about.”
It comes as concerns mount over blistering temperatures expected to envelope the city this week.
De Actis told CTV News he has reached out to the city and to the other shelters to discuss how to help those who are homeless cope with the high heat.
Environment Canada has issued a heat warning, with the humidity making it feel like the mid-30s.
“With COVID-19 and everything else that that brings we’re struggling to figure out what’s our next step,” says De Actis.
He says he’s hoping the group can quickly come up with a plan, “because it’s going to take a whole system to figure this one out now.”
The city and its social agencies find themselves dealing with both the COVID-19 epidemic and the ongoing opioid crisis.
Normally during periods of high heat malls, community centres, and libraries would be used as cooling centres, but during the current restrictions members of the public are not being allowed inside.
“You still have to worry about the social distancing and what that means, and how do we bring people in out of the heat,” explained De Actis.
“The city doesn’t have anything open for this as they have in the past, so it’s just going to take a lot of brainstorming, working together to figure out our next steps.
Centre of Hope shelter user Chuck Phillips told CTV News there’s just no where to go to beat the heat.
“Try to get into the shade and stuff. That’s about all you can really do. Homeless people, they need places. I’ve always had my own place so I’m not used to this.”
Middlesex-London medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie says he worries about people becomeing dehydryated, but adds that some find ways to take care of themselves.
“It would be helpful if we had a great system to distribute water to people who are living on the streets. But in general people who are homeless are from what I understand working with staff at shelters is people who are homeless are often very creative in terms of how they respond to heat waves.”