Despite record-high overnight low temps, Phoenix only has one 24/7 heat relief center

The City of Phoenix only has one 24/7 heat relief center, and due to staffing challenges, many other cooling centers close at 5 p.m.
Published: Jul. 15, 2023 at 10:04 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - You can’t escape this heat even when the sun goes down in the Valley. This is proving to be a challenge for the City of Phoenix, which currently only has one 24/7 heat relief center.

People who are homeless are exposed to dangerous and even deadly conditions. “This weekend will be some of the most serious and hot conditions we’ve ever seen. It is a time for maximum community vigilance,” said David Hondula, the City of Phoenix’s Director of Heat Response and Mitigation.

The City of Phoenix is bracing for unrelenting heat. Saturday marks the hottest day in two years for the Valley, hitting 118. It’s also the 16th consecutive day of temps above 110. “We know that the public health risks of heat increase exponentially with temperature. So every additional degree that we add to the forecast is dangerous,” said Hondula.

Currently, the city has several cooling and heat relief centers called the regional heat network. But only one, the Brian Garcia welcome center, is open 24/7. “The most vulnerable are our unsheltered neighbors. The most impactful measures the city is taking is to try to add capacity with respect to shelter beds, affordable housing,” said Hondula.

But the overnight lows are barely under 100 degrees which can still be deadly for those without shelter. “Providing options to get out of the heat during the day is important as well,” said Hondula.

The city also makes it easier for those not within walking distance of a cooling center to make it out of the heat. “Arizona 211 on your phone can get free transportation via lift. That’s available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week,” said Hondula.

Hondula says facilities voluntarily join the heat relief network, meaning staffing is challenging. “The regional heat network largely sees a drop in capacity at the end of business hours, and we know that heat continues afterwards. What would it take to extend the hours, one two, those are conversations that happen quite often,” Hondula.

On Thursday, the city had 33 911 calls. They are expecting that number to climb with the oppressive heat this weekend. Most of those impacted by the heat are the homeless and older people.

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