It has been hot here in Seattle. And when I say hot, I mean H-O-T hot! We broke a record yesterday with temperatures reaching 103*! For Seattle, where summer temps usually range in the high 70s to mid 80s, this current heat wave is not only unusual, but also particularly dangerous. This city is not equipped to handle the heat. Very few places have air conditioning. Only 30% of city buses are air conditioned. The majority of homes and apartments usually cool off from breezes through open windows. But as the temperatures rise, the air grows still and heavy. Combined with a nearly 2 month drought, and the suffering increases. Everywhere you turn, people are cranky as a result of the energy-sucking heat. On the crowded buses, people are quick to lose their temper. Impatience is running amuck. This is a city, and a population, that was just not prepared for the heat.
While I have done my share of complaining about the unbearable heat in the last few days, I realize that I am still very lucky. While I am one of the many who works in an unairconditioned workplace, rides an unairconditioned bus and lives in an unairconditioned apartment, I still have ways to stay cool. I live in a basement, which helps beat the heat a little. I can afford to buy a fan for my small space. I can treat myself to a refreshing lemonade. If I were to walk in a museum or movie theater, I would not be turned away because I can afford the price of admission. But for so many, this is not the case.
We have women at Mary’s Place who come to the day center exhausted from getting little rest in an overcrowded shelter, where everyone sleeps on a mat and there are not enough fans to go around. Shelters with little to no ventilation. I’ve heard multiple times this week of women who have suffered from heat stroke, because they have no place to go during the day, so they spend their day outside walking around trying to find shade. Finding enough liquids to keep them cool and safe is a challenge. Finding an airconditioned place to sit and rest in a near impossibility.
We at Mary’s Place are thankful that we can at least offer them shelter from the blistering sun, and that generous donors have dropped off loads of water and popsicles!
So as you are doing whatever you can to stay cool during the summer, remember those who don’t have that option. If you can, donate bottled water, fans or cool summer clothing to your local homeless shelters. Check in on the elderly and the vunerable. And be thankful that summer won’t last forever.