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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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Local Groups Help People Stay Cool


Individuals sit in the shade at OurCalling | Image by FOX

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North Texas organizations are helping vulnerable populations stay cool as the region continues to experience high temperatures.

OurCalling, a Dallas-based nonprofit, opened its doors at about 6:30 a.m. — earlier than usual — in July so homeless and vagrant people could get out of the heat, according to FOX 4 News.

“For us, it’s not just about making people feel comfortable,” OurCalling CEO Pastor Wayne Walker told FOX 4. “It’s about saving lives.”

Walker, who said he knew of at least two homeless or vagrant people who have died from chronic heat exposure, added that his organization doubled its usual turnout at the shelter as a result of the heatwave.

“We’ve got people exposed not only to heat exhaustion but heat stroke,” Walker said.

The pastor, who is a member of the organization’s search-and-rescue arm, added that the searing heat is a danger to homeless and vagrant people, and it is now more “critical” to get people off the streets.

OurCalling, which describes itself as “a faith-based organization that leads the homeless to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle by building lasting relationships and making disciples on the streets,” has been involved in several efforts to help protect homeless and vagrant people from the weather.

As reported by The Dallas Express, the organization opened its doors to homeless and vagrant people so they could get off the streets and escape the winter storm in February. The faith-based organization shared information with people about where they could find shelter during the storm. Its volunteers also distributed food, water, and firewood to people who live in homeless and vagrant encampments.

In Dallas County, the number of “chronically homeless” — people who remain homeless or vagrant for more than a year — rose from 327 in 2021 to 1,029 in 2022. Data shows that “chronic homelessness” has surged by 40% in the U.S. since 2016.

The number of people in Dallas who “exit homeless services and enter permanent housing” was a mere 20% in 2021.

“More people are becoming homeless every day,” Walker has said previously.

Another organization at the forefront of protecting those vulnerable to the heat in North Texas is the Visiting Nurse Association of Texas, which caters to the needs of homebound, elderly, and disabled people through the Meals on Wheels programs.

The program delivers meals to 4,500 clients in Tarrant County five days a week. They have also provided fans to residents who are in need.

“Any client who needs one, we just deliver it to them when we deliver our meals,” said Chris Culak, vice president and chief of strategy and development for the Visiting Nurse Association of Dallas.

Culak signified that his organization will not reduce its effort as temperatures are expected to remain on or above 100 degrees for some time.

“We tell our volunteers, ‘Take a look to see: Does the person seem overheated? Does their house seem hot when you’re delivering the meals? Ask them how they’re doing. Are they staying cool?'” Culak added. “It’s really about checking in on them every day. ‘Hey, how are you doing? What else can we do to help you?'”

Culak revealed that his organization gave out around 400 fans last year. This summer, it has distributed another 200 fans to its clients so far.

Formed in 1943, the Visiting Nurse Association, a nonprofit, has played a major role in community-based health care. Besides providing for its clients through its Meals on Wheels program, the organization also helps terminally-ill patients and their families “navigate the complex health care system,” according to its website.     

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