Research shows extreme heat poses increased health risks for people experiencing homelessness. It can exacerbate chronic health issues and boost the probability of dehydration.
In Louisville, temperatures are expected to reach triple digits this week. The city’s “Operation White Flag” aims to offer unsheltered residents refuge when the heat index or temperatures rise above 95 degrees. This means some shelters will make it easier to get in to help keep people cool.
The Louisville Coalition for the Homeless oversees this effort. Catherine McGeeney, the nonprofit’s director of communications, said White Flag days are life-saving.
“Anybody who has stepped outside during this weather this week, knows that it feels like you’ve got a hot fan spraying on you. It is very dangerous for people to be outdoors all the time when the weather is as hot as it is,” McGeeney said.
The Salvation Army Center of Hope, Wayside Christian Mission and men’s-only shelter St. Vincent de Paul accept walk-ins during extreme weather.
However, White Flag days don’t guarantee beds for everyone. Staff will consider admission for people who were previously banned from shelters on a case-by-case basis.
McGeeney said there need to be more long-term and permanent solutions to address the homelessness crisis. That starts with housing that’s affordable to residents in all income brackets, she said.
“As we look at these hot days, and we try to imagine what it would be like to have to live outdoors, I would encourage everyone to also consider what our government can fund in order to protect people in the first place,” McGeeney said. “It’s also just true that our shelters are very underfunded.”
The Transit Authority of River City, or TARC, is waiving bus fees for Louisvillians who need a ride to the participating shelters. Some agencies and organizations will also serve as “cooling centers” around the city.
Last week, Louisville Metro offered some residents tips on how and where to keep cool. For location information, residents can call Metro311, 502-574-5000 — or visit the city’s website.
Here’s a list of white flag shelters in Louisville:
Salvation Army Center of Hope — 911 South Brook St., 502-671-4904
Shelters operating day and night
Wayside Christian Mission — 432 East Jefferson St., 502-742-6166
St. Vincent de Paul (Men only) — 1034 South Jackson St., 502-584-2480 ext. 224
Residents can also get emergency updates through the Louisville Coalition for the Homeless’ Coordinated Shelter Access online, or by calling the hotline at 502-637-2337.