If you spend any time on 7th Avenue in Phoenix, you may have seen the homeless person they call Bucket Man wheeling his shopping cart up and down the street. What you probably don’t know is Bucket Man suffers from a seizure disorder that, when he’s out of medication, causes him to have grand mal seizures.
There’s a story that Sister Adele O’Sullivan, CSJ, MD, founder and medical director of Circle the City, tells about caring for Bucket Man after he suffered a seizure during a Phoenix summer day. Besides treating him for the after-effects of the seizure, she also had to tend to the third-degree burns he received just from lying on the sidewalk and being exposed to the midday sun.
For a homeless person, a summer sidewalk can be as lethal as an open flame.
In 2015, more than 32,000 men, women, and children experiencing homelessness sought help from service agencies here in Maricopa County. That number includes more than 8,000 children, an increase of 5,000 from 2014.
As temperatures rise towards triple digits here in Phoenix, the challenges facing this growing population increase exponentially.
It’s hammered home time and time again that one of the best ways to stave off heat-related illness is to stay hydrated. But consider this: Even if plenty of water is available, homeless individuals often refuse to drink it because of a lack of safe, available bathroom facilities. A high percentage of the homeless population deals with poorly controlled diabetes and substance abuse problems, with chronic dehydration as part of their everyday life.
Imagine what it’s like for them living outside on a 110-degree Phoenix afternoon.
Besides getting people out of the sun and getting them hydrated, there are many other brutal consequences that come with hot weather. There’s the sunburn a person can get from spending just a few minutes outside. There are the side effects of medication many take for blood pressure and psychiatric conditions that can lead to much bigger issues when someone is overheated. There are the challenges faced by day laborers working outside or in hot warehouses.
There are simply not enough air conditioned public buildings that welcome the homeless, nor are there enough public spigots where someone can cool off.
How can you help?
Circle the City is participating in a summer water drive through the Phoenix Heat Relief Network. Operating from May through September, this city-run program provides hydration, respite, and wellness checks, adding to the ongoing efforts of agencies like CTC. During these months, CTC needs donations of flats of water, sunscreen, and hats that can be distributed to patients of The Parsons Family Health Center and the Mobile Medical Clinic.
Donations can be dropped off at the Parsons Family Health Center, 3522 N. 3rd Ave in Phoenix, or you can purchase an item or two from our Amazon Wish List and have them shipped directly to the Health Center.
You may also send a monetary donation or a gift card to a local grocery store to:
Circle the City
300 W. Clarendon Ave., Suite 200
Phoenix, AZ 85013
Visit here to learn more ways to help.