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Spokane activates heat response plan for unsheltered people

Emily T. Starr, via Flickr/Creative Commons

Libraries will act as cooling centers and the Trent Avenue shelter will expand its capacity as the city of Spokane braces for a heat wave.

Spokane’s municipal code requires the city to activate an extreme weather plan for homeless people when temperatures are forecast to reach 95 degrees for two or more consecutive days. The National Weather Service is forecasting daytime highs of 95 or higher beginning Sunday, persisting into next week.

The city’s six libraries will act as designated cooling centers during their normal business hours. Only the Central Library on Riverside Drive will stay open longer this weekend, from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The Trent Resource and Assistance Center will activate its surge capacity Sunday. The converted warehouse at 4320 East Trent Avenue offers industrial fans, meals, supplemental hydration resources and snacks for those seeking shelter during heat waves, and comprehensive wrap-around services for those in need, the city said in a statement.

During a severe cold snap in January, the city repaired and re-opened the Cannon Street shelter to offer additional capacity for the winter months. But that building will not be available for the heat wave. Earlier this week it re-launched as a pilot housing navigation center that has a different focus and is not open for general or emergency sheltering.

Community leaders, health experts and climate researchers have pointed out in recent years that the effects of heat waves aren’t limited to homeless populations. People who have shelter but inadequate air conditioning are also at risk for heat-related illness.

“It’s not just people experiencing homelessness,” said Julie Garcia, CEO of Jewels Helping Hands. “It’s elderly folks. It’s folks without access to air conditioning. And if you’re elderly in your home and you’re unable get out and about, this is…when people have serious injuries or even death from sitting in their apartment with no air conditioning.”

On its website, Gonzaga University’s Institute for Climate, Water and the Environment assembled a map of cooling resources in the Spokane region and a list of heat safety recommendations.

Similar information, including more about heat-related distress, is available from the Spokane Regional Health District.

Residents are also being encouraged to use splash pads and city-owned pools during daytime hours. There are splash pads at 19 city parks, open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. There are six city pools, open to the public Monday through Saturday from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Pool use requires a free digital Splash Pass, which can be obtained online through Spokane Parks and Recreation.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for nearly twenty years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.