KANSAS CITY, Mo. – People living on the streets are finding ways to tough out the sweltering temperatures, and the Salvation Army is playing a big part in their relief.
As the excessive summer heat moved into the region Wednesday afternoon, volunteers with the Salvation Army’s Honk and Holler meal program were busy making the rounds to homeless camps across Kansas City.
“It works on my heart because they’re out there, and this is a camp that is in heavy foliage. And so between the bugs and the heat, it’s tough surviving out here,” said PD Crow, a volunteer with the program.
Callie became homeless 17 months ago after she lost her disability income. The 55-year-old waits in line three nights a week for a hot meal, but she’s forced to take the journey or go without when temperatures rise.
“It does limit how much food you can go for, so you end up going without some meals because of the energy it would take to walk through the heat wouldn’t be worth what calories you got,” she said. “So you’ve got to pick and choose.”
She’s grateful that the Salvation Army is handing out extra water with their meals this week.
“You try to drink all you can, or you get ice,” she said. “Most places charge you for it. So if you’re broke, you’re just out of luck.”
Tim lost his job in February. The 41-year-old said he’s been denied water several times because of his situation. The most recent incident happened Wednesday afternoon.
“I went into an establishment because there was a sign outside saying ‘Free Ice-Cold Water,’ and I was turned around immediately by someone who told me, ‘Sorry, you can’t come in here sir. You need to leave,’” he recalled.
He carries a little circular fan around with his other belongings, hoping to plug it in in places he can use electricity and keep cool.
“It’s rough out here,” he said. “[I’m] just trying to keep my head up.”
Both Tim and Callie said staying hydrated is key to surviving out on the streets in the heat. They also limit the amount of time they stay in the sun, taking advantage of cooling centers when they can.
“It’s a struggle every single day for every single thing you have or need,” Tim said. “You have to think about water sources, especially in heat right now. You need to make sure you’ve got first-aid items on you because you don’t know if you might end up injured. It’s hard to sleep because you’ve got to keep one eye open because not all of these guys are good guys.”
“It’s a lot of sad situations where you just have to make do with it because that’s what you’re dealt,” Callie added.
Crow, who has been volunteering with the Salvation Army since 2009, sees his service as an opportunity to lift the spirit of those experiencing homeless — especially during extreme weather conditions.
“We’re just trying to get them some water and let them know we’re here for them,” Crow said. “It’s rewarding. I’ve been blessed to be a blessing.”
“They’re very appreciated, and they even provide us with snack packs to take with us because sometimes you don’t always get lunch or breakfast,” Tim said.
Volunteers with Honk and Holler are out on the streets three days a week. On average, they serve about 100 people each of those days.