Unhoused people in Phoenix are struggling to survive extreme heat as climate change pushes temperatures higher and police harassment makes it harder to find a place to sleep, the AP reports. Heat contributes to about 1,500 deaths in the U.S. every year (more than hurricanes, flooding, and tornadoes combined) and approximately half the people who die heat-related deaths are experiencing homelessness.
“During the summer, it’s pretty hard to find a place at night that’s cool enough to sleep without the police running you off,” Chris Medlock, an unhoused Phoenix resident, told the AP. Climate change, mainly caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme heat and heatwaves, and is especially increasing overnight temperatures, which can present heightened dangers to human health. Temperatures have already hit 114°F in Phoenix, where at least 130 people living outside died from heat-associated causes last year. “If 130 homeless people were dying in any other way it would be considered a mass casualty event,” Kristie L. Ebi, a professor of global health at the University of Washington, said. (AP)