Outreach workers in Bellingham helping homeless community beat the heat

Many are unable or unwilling to go to a cold center, so the workers bring relief directly to them.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — As the Northwest heatwave advances, many homeless are unable or unwilling to attend cold centers.

At Bellingham’s base camp for the homeless, a recreation room has been converted into a temporary refrigeration centre. But workers haven’t seen many people using it during the heatwave and that worries them.

Visiting employees now bring the help directly to them.

With coolers filled with ice and buckets of juice, workers from Lighthouse Ministries paraded through the steaming streets of Bellingham.

“We’ve noticed that people are pretty thirsty this week,” said Lighthouse’s Kilmery Miller.

At last count, there were officially 859 homeless people in Whatcom County, most of them in Bellingham.

Outreach workers loaded a van with food and cold drinks and drove across town to known hangouts for people affected by homelessness. They distributed drinks and sandwiches to the needy and invited them to the cooling center.

They gave out about 100 bottles of water a day, five days a week. The bottles could be the only drinks they get on any given day, with temperatures well into the 80s or above this week.

“So if we’re the only people they’re getting water from, we worry that they’re not getting enough water,” Lighthouse’s Adam Estrada said.

One of those grateful for the handouts is Eric Ballweber, who has been homeless for nearly 17 years. A few years ago he suffered heat stroke on a muggy city bus.

Standing on the sidewalk next to a homeless woman in no shoes or socks, he knows how unrelenting the heat can be for those who have so little.

He is grateful for the public relations work done.

“They really dialed us,” he said. “You know what we need. We have a personal relationship with these guys. They do it personally and that makes a difference.”

Outreach workers also visited a shadowless street lined with cars and RVs, many in varying states of disrepair.

For the people living in it, the heat can quickly become deadly. In the end, they have no way of escaping the rising temperatures.

“A lot of these vehicles are stranded here,” Estrada said. “They are missing parts and the air conditioning isn’t working, so they can’t move.”

During last summer’s heat wave, one hundred people died in Washington alone in one week.

In addition to providing food and hydration to the homeless, outreach workers are using this summer’s heatwave to build lasting relationships that they hope will one day result in the homeless being taken off the streets for good.

“I think it’s important that we just show up for them every day,” Miller said.

CLOCK: Advocates say clearing homeless camps during a heatwave is dangerous

https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/outreach-workers-help-homeless-heat-wave/281-ae2c0997-eb16-4308-9978-f9d129ec05a0 Outreach workers in Bellingham helping homeless community beat the heat

Alley Einstein

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