Extreme heat
Extreme heat Via Pexels

Temperatures in southern Florida were at a record high during the month of May, according to data collected by the National Weather Service (NWS). In Miami, where normal temperatures sit around 80.1 degrees for May, the average temperatures this year reached a scorching 83.7. The outlook might be even bleaker, as experts are warning of an even hotter summer.

Amid such a heat wave, Axios reports that local organizations in Miami are working to protect one of the most affected demographics: the unhoused population. As David Perry, founder and executive director of Miami Coalition to Advance Racial Equity, told the outlet: "extreme heat impacts a lifespan [especially for the unhoused] and we're really concerned about a large number of deaths that may occur this summer."

Miami-Dade County officials are overseeing a campaign that includes educational outreach, departmental workshops and community aid distribution efforts. This initiative aims to mitigate the adverse effects of extreme heat on vulnerable populations, particularly the unhoused.

Ludovica Martella, the heat program coordinator for the Miami-Dade County Office of Resilience, detailed the efforts to Axios, which include distributing cooling towels, electrolyte packets, neck gaiters, and ice packs to the homeless. The county has also established cooling sites at public libraries and parks, offering a refuge from the heat. Approximately 120 individuals have utilized these cooling sites, according to Ron Book, chair of the county-led Homeless Trust.

To date, the county has distributed around 1,400 bottles and cans of water, 260 face coverings and cold packs, and 100 packs of electrolytes. Despite these efforts, new state laws and local ordinances have created challenges in reaching unhoused individuals.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed a measure in March prohibiting cities and counties from allowing people to sleep in public places, and allowing the creation of homeless camps if shelters are full. This law, effective October 1, alongside increased enforcement of anti-camping laws in Miami Beach, complicates outreach efforts. Local officials have reportedly been arresting individuals for sleeping in public. Critics argue that criminalization policies are exacerbating health risks for the unhoused.

Additionally, there are fewer cooling sites compared to last year due to smaller parks' inability to host large groups, and most cooling centers are closed on Sundays and at night. This has raised concerns about where people can go once these centers close.

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