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Oppressive Heat Adds Stress to Physical, Mental Health of Homeless People From US to Canada This Summer

Hot weather this summer from the central United States into Canada has put extra stress on some of the most vulnerable residents: the homeless.

There has been an increase of clients using their services due to the higher-than-average temperatures, Homeless advocates from Houston, Texas, to Winnipeg, Manitoba, said.

Hot weather is a strong factor in driving more homeless to shelters than any other time of the year, according to Scott Arthur, director of public relations for the Star of Hope Mission in Houston.

After starting out slowly in June with slightly below-average temperatures, Houston has had 10 100-degree-Fahrenheit days since July 1; seven of those days occurred in August.

"Men, women and families who usually live in abandoned buildings, old cars and street corners seek the cool and safety of our shelters," Arthur said. "Hot weather also sparks domestic violence, driving many women to our facilities as they escape their current situation."

Many of Houston's street homeless suffer from dehydration, Arthur said.

"This accelerates any existing mental challenges and causes some of our 'hard core' homeless to hibernate - away from society," he said.

Water is the greatest need for the homeless because there is no reprieve in the heat, Judy Richichi, director of gifts and corporate relations for the Siloam Mission in Winnipeg told the Winnipeg Sun newspaper in mid-August.

Winnipeg experienced daytime highs between 86-94 F (30-34 C) between Aug. 11-15. The average high in Winnipeg for that time of year is 77 F (25 C).

As far as a limit for temperatures, anything above 90 F (32 C) starts to have a health effect on homeless people who have no access to air conditioning, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jack Boston said.

"AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures, of course, give a good estimate on the effects of sunshine, wind and humidity in combination with the actual air temperatures," Boston said. "The effects of the heat are greater with the amount of sunshine, the higher the humidity and the lighter the winds are. A good rule of thumb for RealFeel Temperatures would probably be anything over 90 F (32 C)."

"Heat exhaustion comes from not only higher temperatures but also from dehydration," he said. "Sports drinks are formulated to stave off dehydration with the electrolytes they contain. Obviously, staying out of direct sunlight will also help, especially at lower humidity levels."

Hot and humid conditions affect infants and elderly people the most as well as those with respiratory issues such as COPD and emphysema, Boston said.