With the extreme heat of the past week, community service workers say refrigeration centers have been crucial to Ottawa’s most vulnerable.
Temperatures in the region have exceeded 28 C, and the humidity has made it feel closer to 40 most days since Environment Canada first issued a heat warning last Thursday afternoon.
The temperatures are currently also expected to exceed 30 C through the coming Thursday, so the Salvation Army’s outreach crew has extended their opening hours, and goes out every morning at. 7 instead of kl. 11, according to Jason Pino, supervisor of outreach services.
The street outreach van provides support to people experiencing homelessness by transporting them to shelters or city emergency shelters and by providing them with water, food and appropriate clothing, he added.
“Our workers are specifically out there looking for our customers, with whom they are in regular contact, and making sure they stay safe and cared for in the midst of what is increased vulnerability with the heat,” Pino said.
Cooling centers on a stock issue
Those who sleep outside in parks and on the street are more exposed to heat, and those who struggle with addiction or mental health face additional health problems in this weather, Pino said.
“It increases their confusion and their sometimes lack of awareness of what’s going on around them or how to take care of themselves,” he added.
The outreach team has seen an increase in the number of people requiring access to refrigeration centers to access air conditioning and services, Pino said, adding that it is important that the city decided to keep them open until Wednesday.
These three cooling centers are open from 11:00 to 19:00:
Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave. W.
Plant Recreation Center, 930 Somerset St. W.
Overbrook Community Center, 33 Quill St.
A spokesman for paramedics from Ottawa said they have also seen a “big jump” in heat-related calls.
That’s why cold stores are so vital, according to Martha Robinson, who chairs the city’s extreme weather response committee.
Robinson said the town hall location has been the most popular refrigeration center for those seeking respite.
“It’s been challenging because a lot of the places people go to cool down … the facilities have occupancy limits,” she said.
Robinson says working with landlords of apartments and shared housing is key to ensuring people know about the cold stores, while people who speak different languages also understand the possibility.
The city has translated its Beat the Heat information into six different languages, she said.
The city plans to close its 53 paddling pools on Tuesday and four monitored beaches on Aug. 29, while splash pads remain open until Sept. 15.