PHOENIX — As Phoenix temperatures flirt with triple digits this Easter weekend, organizations across the Valley are gearing up to protect those most vulnerable, people experiencing homelessness.
On Friday, Austin Davis was working on the heat, by handing out cold water, spray bottles, ice cream and art supplies to people experiencing homelessness in downtown Phoenix.
"It’s going to be a very scary time for the unsheltered community so if we can provide those items that are necessary as well as something that will make people smile, I think that’s super valuable," said Davis, Homeless Outreach Organizer for Arizona Jews for Justice, a pluralistic and progressive Jewish group that focuses on community outreach and social justice.
"The heat here in Arizona is deadly, it’s dangerous and it’s terrifying, to be honest," said Davis.
In Maricopa County during 2020, 167 homeless Arizonans died of heat-related deaths. Of those, 109 deaths involved drug intoxication.
"Imagine what that is when you don’t have an air conditioner, you don’t have a pool to run to. You don’t have anything that’s designed to cool you off. You’re just relegated to asphalt," said Richard Crews, Program Director with Human Services Campus, Inc.
In February, the Phoenix City Council approved nearly $33 million of CARES Act money to help combat homelessness with $1.6 million going to the Human Services Campus to increase the number of beds.
Crews said he is setting extra money aside in this year's budget to help provide water to homeless people all summer long.
Both Crews and Davis are calling on the public to help hand out water.
"Keep a cooler of ice-cold water in your car and if you see someone out there in the streets and give them a few bottles of water," said Davis. "If everyone does that I think we can create a huge difference."