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Series of 110+ highs taking toll on those experiencing homelessness

Posted at 6:04 PM, Jul 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-16 22:40:41-04

PHOENIX — As the Phoenix area continues a stretch of 110-degree high temperatures, one population trying to survive are those experiencing homelessness.

Frank Urban says every night he goes to sleep near 7th Avenue.

"Couple blocks away from here by the canal. On the concrete," he said. "We have a couple blankets we put under us so we don't feel the heat too much."

When he wakes up, he has a meal at St. Vincent de Paul's and volunteers in the kitchen. He says he's unable to work because of mental health issues and relies on the food bank to survive. However, some with similar stories have not.

MAP: Heat relief stations across the Valley

Across from the shelter's Sunnyslope location is a memorial with the names of homeless people who have died.

"The homeless in this area affectionately refer to this as the wall of death," Urban said.

Urban says a fair amount of the people on the wall died of heat exhaustion. One of them was a man by the name of 'Twich.'

"We thought that it was just heat exhaustion and the paramedics were coming and he would be ok," Urban said. "But as it turned out, he had passed away. They found him right out here, laying face down on the sidewalk."

During the hot summer months, St. Vincent de Paul opens a few extra hours every day to give ice cold drinks and a cooler floor to sleep on. It's an effort to prevent tragedies like Twich from happening again.

"Not all of us are drug dealers, thieves, murderers," he said. "A lot of us are just like everyone else. We couldn't pay rent. We couldn't make a mortgage payment."