Climate Change Makes Cities Even More Dangerous to Homeless Population
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, 2017 was the third hottest year on record. In fact, because of climate change we are on track to see average temperatures rise another 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit across the United States by the end of the century.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 2017 was also the first time the United States has seen an increase in homelessness in almost a decade. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of un-sheltered people in homelessness rose by 9 percent. This means more than 180,000 Americans were sleeping outside.
Extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related death in the United States. This poses a serious risk for the homeless population.
Climate change will also result in hotter heat waves. By the end of the century, a daytime high could be as hot as 125 degrees in less than 100 years.
This effect is amplified in major cities and is known as the urban heat island, meaning temperatures are even hotter in large cities, where homeless populations are most high. In fact, it is more common to find higher homeless populations in warmer climates.
Christine DeMyers, a Ph.D. student in anthropology at ASU interviewed many of the homeless population in Phoenix to learn about their access to water. She revealed, “The homeless population was subject to the injustice of disproportionately living in areas with environmental hazards, the urban heat island effect, a lack of vegetation, and a lack of adequately maintained public parks.”
Those she interviewed were at greater risk for dehydration and heat exhaustion since they spend most of their time outdoors without enough water.
In the summer of 2016 in Arizona, there was a 75 percent increase in heat-associated deaths.
New Jersey now has a statewide Code Blue law that mandates the state’s counties to provide warming centers in cold and stormy weather but there is no policy that protects the homeless during extreme heat.
According to Monarch Housing Associates CEO, Richard Brown, “NJ has made significant steps in addressing climate related issues for the homeless by passing the Code Blue law. After the second heat wave this year, now is the time to not only to amend and improve the Code Blue law but also to expand it include Code Red so that our homeless neighbors will be protected from extreme temperatures year-round.”
DeMyers and others are calling on cities to provide adequate resources for these suffering populations. With climate change endangering the homeless more than ever, affordable housing is that much more important.
If you are passionate about providing affordable housing and the impact of climate change in New Jersey, you should attend the July 25th, a Congressional Reception will be held at the Dirksen Senate Auditorium in Washington D.C. This event will allow New Jersey residents who are working poor, below the poverty line and or impacted by homelessness to urge their elected officials in Washington to make No Cuts to Housing and remind them that Oportunity Starts at Home.
We know that by joining together and amplifying our voices, we can have an impact on the decisions that are made in Washington DC. Join Monarch Housing Associates and our 35 partners from New Jersey to make the case that homelessness is solvable a problem. The federal government must be a full partner in ensuring an adequate breadth of services are available to prevent children, people with disabilities, the elderly, and all of our neighbors in NJ from experiencing the homelessness.
Register today to attend the Congressional Reception. Everyone needs to register even if you are traveling on your own.