The beginning of June is typically when triple-digit temperatures settle in for the long, hot summer, and hydration becomes a matter of survival for the Valley’s homeless.
Monday marked the launch of Mesa’s annual Hydration Donation Campaign to collect bottled water — one of more than dozens of efforts across metro Phoenix to help prevent heat-related fatalities.
“Water is essential to life,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said at a kickoff event. “For most of us, we take it for granted. But it’s important to remember that there are people in our community that aren’t that fortunate. This is life and death for people.”
Mesa officials want to collect 400,000 bottles of drinking water to stock at locations throughout the city where transients can go to quench their thirst and cool off, even if for a moment.
Cities and towns across metro Phoenix have donation and hydration stations as part of the Heat Relief Regional Network, which is led by the Maricopa Association of Governments and includes municipalities, non-profits and other organizations. Mesa is in the network.
The body’s main cooling mechanism is sweat, which cools the body through evaporation. When that doesn’t work, people can suffer heat-related illnesses. The following are some tips to help avoid heat-related illness from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Since 2005, the network has coordinated and implemented hydration stations, refuge locations and water-donation sites throughout the Valley to help prevent heat-related deaths among the homeless and other vulnerable populations.
More than 1,500 people died in Arizona from exposure to excessive heat from 2000 to 2012, according to data from the state Department of Health Services. More common, however, are heat-related illnesses, which annually send about 2,000 people to hospital emergency rooms in Arizona each year, state data shows.
Hydration stations generally operate May through September, and 45 locations are now open, according to an online Heat Relief Network map, which can be found at www.azmag.gov/heatrelief. The site also includes information on where to donate.
Ethan Cohen has already done his part. The 13-year-old dropped off about 22,000 bottles of water Monday to Central Arizona Shelter Services in downtown Phoenix.
Cohen had spent six months soliciting bottled-water donations as part of a volunteer project for his bar mitzvah, an adolescent rite of passage in the Jewish faith. Mitzvah, according to chabad.org, means “command” or “a good deed.”
When choosing his volunteer project, Cohen remembered collecting box tops a few years ago to help a charity that provides drinking water to those in need, and he was inspired.
“I knew homelessness wasn’t a rarity,” Ethan said. “I also knew dehydration was a huge problem here.”
Central Arizona Shelter Services provides water to anyone who stops by the Human Services Campus, which houses several non-profits that provide specific kinds of aid to those in need. The campus houses up to 1,100 people every day, CASS communications manager Lindsey Roberts said.
Roberts said when she heard CASS would be receiving nearly 22,000 bottles of water from Cohen, she thought the number was a mistake.
“Donations like this make what we do here possible,” she said. “It’s a good feeling knowing the people you’re working for are going to be healthy this summer.”
HOW TO HELP
The Maricopa County Association of Governments has 32 sites across the Valley where bottled-water donations can be dropped off. See a map of the locations at www.azmag.gov. Any water donations dropped off at The Kenny Klaus Team will be delivered to the Mesa Hydration Donation Campaign.