Protecting the homeless during the extreme summer heat

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Some 130 homeless people died from the heat in the Phoenix area in 2021 and 172 in 2020, according to the Public Health Department of Maricopa County. Those numbers are double and triple the totals from the previous four years.

Much of the United States has experienced extreme heat this summer which scientists say is exacerbated by climate change. Even other countries have suffered unusually scorching temps. The homeless often bear the brunt of the heat,

Joining us on Arizona Horizon to talk about how heat affects the homeless is Amy Schwabenlender, Executive Director of Human Services Campus, Inc. The of Human Services Campus is a collaborative force of 16 partner organizations with the shared outcome of ending homelessness for people every day. At the campus, in addition to the 800+ individuals they see every day, there are now about 750 people living in tents outside the campus. The team at the Human Services Campus has expanded both access to services and resources (the Brian Garcia Welcome Center, which is now open 24 hours a day) and outreach (the outreach team is growing and staff are on the streets around the campus every day meeting with individuals to see what can be done to alleviate their situations.)

Excessive heat on the streets

Temperatures are rising nearly everywhere because of global warming, combining with brutal drought in some places to create more intense, frequent and longer heat waves. The past few summers have been some of the hottest on record.

Excessive heat causes more weather-related deaths in the United States than hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes combined.

Around the country, heat contributes to some 1,500 deaths annually, and advocates estimate about half of those people are homeless.

Climate scientsist David Hondula said, “Our best estimate is that individuals experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County are at about 200 times higher risk of suffering heat-associated illness or death than folks who have regular, stable housing.”

Hondula says the heat issue will only get worse. “The projections suggest that our hottest days are days that are in the 115 to 220 degree range right now, could become four, five, six, seven degrees Fahrenheit hotter over the next several decades. That’s, of course, a great concern because those hottest days are absolutely the most dangerous,” he said.


Founded in 2005, the Human Services Campus is a collaborative force of partner organizations united on one campus to end homelessness. Located just west of downtown Phoenix, 16 independent agencies on the Campus see nearly 1,000 individuals every day, offering a holistic range of client services including: reunification with family and friends; mental, physical and dental health; shelter; employment; meals; legal services and housing. Having all of these resources in one location with intra-agency communications makes it more feasible to provide a customized engagement for each client to help end their homelessness. For more information, visit

Amy Schwabenlender/Executive Director, Human Services Campus, Inc

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