In this extreme heat, Austin faith-based leaders say the most vulnerable are suffering. They’re calling on the city to make indoor facilities available to give the homeless somewhere to cool off.
The leaders who came together Saturday say the city is taking important steps to make shelter more accessible, but help is needed now during this heat wave.
“It’s bad just being out homeless, period,” said Robert Carson, who is currently experiencing homelessness. “I hate being homeless.” Carson isn’t the only one and now, unfortunately, many like him are homeless in this heat, not knowing when or if they’ll be able to get out of the unforgiving sun.
“They are suffering, they are sick, some are elderly, they have medical conditions, and it’s really hard just to live day-by-day when there’s not only nowhere to sleep at night in the air conditioning, but sometimes not even a place that they know to cool off,” said mission coordinator at Central Presbyterian Church Andi Brauer.
Jesus Gonzales was homeless just a few years ago. He says he knows firsthand what it’s like to be homeless when the weather turns and exactly what it’s like to have to sleep on the floor with nowhere else to go. “It’s hotter, because the concrete kind of absorbs the heat, and with it being so close to the ground, and you can’t escape it,” Gonzales said.
We’ve all been doing our best to brave this blistering Texas heat, but there’s no question, when it’s this hot, it can make people uncomfortable and agitated, and the homeless are out in it sometimes all day. “It’s really unrealistic for us to expect our unhoused neighbors like to have good attitudes,” said Gonzales.
Those without shelter say people don’t seem to be compassionate toward them, even in this heat. “It’s very, very hot; miserable,” said Sherry Walles. “People are very rude, mean.”
Central Presbyterian Church, along with other faith-based organization leaders in the community, says it reached out to the city, pleading for them to open more doors for the homeless this weekend, as temperatures soar. They say they never heard back, so the church decided to open from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, hoping to give those without shelter some reprieve from the heat.
These leaders say the city has provided cold weather shelters for people experiencing homelessness for years but hasn’t done the same in extreme heat, and if people aren’t even keeping their pets outside right now, how could we be leaving human beings out to suffer through it?
“The piece that I will preach tomorrow is the Canaanite woman who is reminding Jesus that even the dogs get the crumbs from under their masters’ table,” said Fr. Kristin Braun of St. David’s Episcopal Church. “It’s a clear call for mercy.”
Leaders also say in 2021, 246 people died due to cold weather. Last year, they say 306 people throughout the state died due to extreme heat, so they say heat clearly should be taken more seriously.