Concerns of a lack of shaded, cool spaces as Edmonton's vulnerable deal with heat wave

·2 min read
EMS workers deal with a patient near the Hope Mission, where close to 20 tents are set up, and vulnerable people hide out in shade to stay cool. (Jamie McCannel/CBC - image credit)
EMS workers deal with a patient near the Hope Mission, where close to 20 tents are set up, and vulnerable people hide out in shade to stay cool. (Jamie McCannel/CBC - image credit)

The current extreme heat is uncomfortable for many Edmontonians, but people without homes are keeping bottles of water close and hiding out under tarps, tents and shade of buildings as the city experiences its hottest day of the year around 37 degrees Celsius.

Some in the inner city camped out or found some form of reprieve from the heat outside the Hope Mission as temperatures rose throughout the day.

That's where Verna Fisher and a couple other volunteers handed out bottles of water and bananas to whomever would take them.

The group usually helps people dealing with COVID-19, but today they toured the inner city passing along four boxes of bananas, and nearly 400 bottles of water.

"It's going to be really, really hot and they need that water," Fisher said. "With the water fountains shut down and everything closed, the only time they get a bottle of water is from people who donate and give it to them for free."

Travis McEwan/CBC
Travis McEwan/CBC

Bernie Giroux previously lived on the street, but she's been housed for about a year. She knows a lot of people who are homeless and has been checking in on them through the extreme heat, worrying about dehydration and heat stroke.

She says many people are trying to hide out from the sun in tents, but the heat inside can also be exhausting. Many shelter spaces still have lowered capacity for day use due to COVID-19-related protocols, so places where homeless people can find a cool space or air conditioning are limited.

"They're just sleeping all over the place because there's nothing to block the heat. There's so much water, but the water gets warm," Giroux said.

At Boyle Street Community Services, many of the services they provide have to be offered outside due to capacity limits. It's provided canopies,chairs and bathrooms for its clients who can't come in.

Jamie McCannel/CBC
Jamie McCannel/CBC

So far there haven't been many people ill from the effects of the heat at Boyle Street, but they've come close.

"We have seen some people who are desperately in need of water coming to our building, which we've been able to provide them with," said Elliott Tanti, senior manager of communications at Boyle Street Community Services.

"We have medical staff on site doing wellness checks and checking on people and making sure that people are safe."

Earlier this week the City of Edmonton activated its extreme weather response. It includes peace officers distributing bottles of water to vulnerable people they come across, along with allowing people a break from the heat to use city libraries and recreation centres,. However, capacity is limited by provincial health regulations.

As of 3 p.m on Tuesday there had been seven heat-related emergency department visits in Edmonton, according to Alberta Health Services

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