Heat Risks High for Bay Area Homeless

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Lucy Kasdin, deputy director of Alameda County’s Health Care for the Homeless Program, talks to Robert Dillon about how he's coping with the heat.  (Julie Small/KQED)

With record heat beating down on the Bay Area this holiday weekend, advocates who work with homeless people are redoubling efforts to spread word about places that offer some escape from the heat.

“Have water, stay cool, go places like the library that are going to be open on the weekend,” advised Lucy Kasdin, deputy director of Alameda County’s Health Care for the Homeless Program.

The agency provides treatment in an 40-foot, air-conditioned van parked outside St. Vincent de Paul Community Center in Oakland every Friday, and in Berkeley, Hayward and San Leandro on other days.

Kasdin told anyone who visited Friday about local cooling centers and gave them a bottle of water.

Robert Dillon, who came to the clinic to get some dental work done, said he lives in his parked trailer on a street in Oakland and because its solar-powered, he cannot park in the shade.


“It’s like living in a tin can, so it’s like a microwave oven in there,” Dillon said.  “If it’s 100 degrees out here, it’s 120 degrees inside the trailer.”

After his dental appointment Dillon planned to build a makeshift air conditioner for the trailer out of an ice chest, PVC piping and a fan.

Robert Dillon's scheme for rigging up an air-conditioning unit for his trailer. (Julie Small/KQED)

He says the design, scrawled on a piece of paper, is simple, inexpensive -- and actually works.

“It sucks in the cold air and blows the hot air right out,” Dillon said.

Cities across the Bay Area opened more cooling centers this weekend for people to get out of the heat.

Kasdin is helping to keep track of the effort for Alameda County and hopes in the future the response will be even greater.

Many of the cooling centers open this weekend plan to close for Labor Day.

“There need to be more resources and more of a plan especially on weekends when many providers don’t work and when fewer places are open,” Kasdin said. “What are we doing to help make sure that this vulnerable population stays safe in the heat?”