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Advocates rush to help those living with homelessness in record heat

Every year advocates for those experiencing homelessness in Arizona offer food and water, but this year's record heat offers a more urgent challenge.
Advocates rush to help those living with homelessness in record heat
Posted at 7:52 PM, Jul 28, 2023

Each year, the Phoenix Rescue Mission hands out more than 600,000 bottles of water to people living on the streets.

Every day, case managers with PRM, like Sergio Armendariz, load up a PRM Hope Coach with lifesaving essentials to hit the city's streets. Those essentials include water, snacks, and some basic necessities, like deodorant and a toothbrush.

"Especially in Phoenix, you could go down any area, and I can go through pretty much all or most of my hygiene and water just because of the amount of people who are living on the street," Armendariz said.

"This is typically a spot where there's always a lot of people," he said.

One man he came across, David, said he'd been experiencing homelessness for about two years.

"It's just tough out here," David said. "I can barely walk, or get out of bed." 

He told Armendariz that he wanted to get out of the hot Phoenix sun that day. Armendariz called some of his contacts at PRM and other local non-profit organizations to see what was available.

A lot of times, that's not a quick or easy task for him because of the number of people experiencing homelessness looking to get off the streets.

"I think, with this job, that's the toughest part about it is being able to find bed space," Armendariz said. "Sometimes, it's just not enough. That's why I'm huge on more shelter space."

SEE MORE: How much heat is too much for the human body?

David ended up not wanting to start a year-long recovery program, which would have gotten him a space at a shelter that had room that week.

Armendariz understands why making the decision to make a change can be difficult for some people. Five years ago, he was in the same place as the people he now serves.

"Every day, I get to wake up and I give thanks to God for having a place to sleep, a shelter, restoration with my family, restoration with my kids, with my extended family," he said. 

"It's just been amazing, really. Freedom - the freedom to just live my life, go to work every day, and do something that I really enjoy doing, and it has its difficulties, but, ultimately, I'm here to help."

Phoenix Rescue Mission is currently doing its "Code:Red Summer Heat Relief" campaign through the end of August.

If you'd like to help or donate, visit their website.

This story was originally published by Amelia Fabiano at Scripps New Phoenix

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