Hot temperatures across the Ozarks impacting homeless, cooling shelters open up

Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 9:28 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Uncomfortably hot temperatures are quite literally scorching some people across the Ozarks.

Homeless outreach groups say they are seeing a number of heat related injuries.

“It just makes you miserable,” described Timmy Cockrum, who is currently un-sheltered. “Takes a lot out of you. Makes you kind of pretty much sick.”

Cockrum lost his leg a year ago and sometimes struggles to get around town. He said he needed something to help keep the sun from beating down on him in this heat, so he built his own shade attached to his wheelchair.

”I don’t have an umbrella and there’s cardboard laying around so just made a canopy to give it some shade that way I can keep moving and still have some shade,” Cockrum said.

Groups like The Connecting Grounds make sure the homeless get plenty of water and supplies.

“There is dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke,” Christie Love with The Connecting Grounds listed. “The un-sheltered population is at a disproportional risk for those kinds of things.”

Pastor Christie Love said the summer heat causes much more than just dehydration.

“In the winter we talk a lot about hypothermia and frostbite; we’ve got individuals who’ve lost legs and toes because of frostbite and hypothermia,” she said. “In the summer, a lot of people don’t think about burns and what that looks like when it’s rainy for long periods of time and trench foot sets in when we’ve got insect bites that itch and they get infected because we can’t have access to proper hygiene.”

Love said she helped one man in extreme crisis the other day. He walked downtown barefoot on the hot pavement.

”The pavement had literally burnt his feet from the holes in his shoes,” Love said. “And so he had blisters. He had burns. There was actually skin peeling off of certain parts of his foot.”

Reasons like this are why cooling centers are opening up. It is part of an effort to minimize time outdoors.

”Anytime the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory or excessive heat warning, the Salvation Army opens up its lobby for folks to come in, to cool down,” Jeff Smith with the Springfield Salvation Army said. “And that’s a cooling center.”

The cooling center at the Salvation Army at Kansas Expressway and Chestnut is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during regular business hours. Although it does not stay open overnight, the Salvation Army says there are overnight options.

The organization has a men’s shelter and a Family Enrichment Center. Both shelters are open 365 days of the year.

“We do have some beds opened up at the men’s shelter tonight,” Smith said. “We have three beds open. And at the Family Center, we are currently full. There’s usually an opening every now and then, but it just depends on the day. So like today, we have three beds open, and we’ll probably have those filled up by tomorrow.”

Christie Love said cooling centers like the one at the Salvation Army are great options, but she said the area needs many more..

”It’s really critical,” she said. “We need day shelters that are all across the city during the summer months, so that people can come in cool off and just have a chance to get a break from the heat.”

Love said supplies are low right now, as donations have started to drop. The group goes out during the day to help provide supplies to the un-sheltered. During the winter they do the exact opposite and go out at night.

“The more supplies we have and the more volunteers we have, the more days we’re going to be able to go out and check on people,” Love said.

The group is working with local churches to also organize water refill stations for the homeless around Springfield.

Right now Westlake Ace Hardware is hosting a fan drive to benefit the Salvation Army. The fan drive ends on Sunday. The Salvation Army is giving out fans to help people in need this summer. You can click on this link to donate.

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