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Spending hours outside in the sun during a heat wave can be dangerous.

“Certainly, for people experiencing homelessness, these are serious emergencies,” says Steven Samra of C4 Innovations, an organization that works to improve services and support for people who are homeless.

Samra himself struggled with homelessness and addiction for years. He says prolonged exposure to the heat can cause heat exhaustion, illness, and even death. And it can harm mental health — for example, by worsening stress and anxiety.

People’s daily tasks – like walking to a place where they can get a meal and a shower – become harder in the heat. And when it does not cool off at night, Samra says getting a good night’s sleep on the street can be nearly impossible.

“To get up the next day and have to do this all over again,” Samra says, “the level of hopelessness that comes with that is sopervasive.

So he says that as heat waves grow more common, cities should be ready to provide cooling centers, extra shelter beds, and improved access to food and water.

“We absolutely need to expand our capacity and our infrastructure to support people who are experiencing homelessness,” he says.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media