- Posted July 17, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The Heat and The Homeless
- stein0726, CNN iReport producer
During the combined heat wave and drought-like conditions that the state of Illinois is currently experiencing, I have heard many people complaining about dying flowers and brown grass. But for some, the excessive heat and lack of rain is much more problematic than nature being less abundant and less beautiful than we would like. For the homeless, these conditions can be life-threatening. In Jacksonville, IL, New Directions is a newly established overnight heating and cooling center, where homeless individuals and families can stay from 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. While the residents of New Directions are quite grateful for the comfort and safety while they sleep, what this means is that during the summer they are forced to be outside in the heat when it is at its worst. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two of the most important prevention methods to combat health problems due to excessive heat, air conditioning and adequate hydration (http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat_guide.asp), are often inaccessible for the homeless.
Vanessa Fane, Director of New Directions, indicates that her facility has seen triple the number of clients since May with the increased heat. Additionally, she notes that at least one client has suffered seizures when forced to be out in the worst of the heat. Situations like this are why a new policy was created that allows clients to be in the facility during the day when temperatures exceed 90 degrees. She has also been handing out bottles of water to both clients and non-clients, especially focusing on children. The activity level of children makes it particularly important that they stay hydrated. Fane is currently working to convert New Directions into a permanent 24 hour facility. The success of this endeavor depends primarily on funding and an increase in the number of volunteers. In the meantime, the residents stay in the facility as long as they are allowed and find other places in Jacksonville that will allow them to escape the heat for a bit. To inquire about ways to support New Directions, call the Homeless Hotline at 217-473-0434 or stop in and find out what you can do! New Directions is located in the west portion of Grace United Methodist Church on the corner of Church Street and State Street.