Hot temperatures put people living in their cars at greater risk

SEATTLE -- The hot weather is not just uncomfortable but down-right dangerous for our most-vulnerable populations.  The young, the elderly, and the unsheltered populations have the hardest times in excessive heat.

We know there are more homeless people living in their vehicles now than ever before, up by 46% compared to last year.  In 2018, there are an
estimated 3,372 people living in cars, RVs, and vans. in King County.

“It’s awful hot and the temperature yesterday (Monday) really wore us out,” said James Clifton, who lives in his van.

Clifton calls his van his ride and his home after being out of work for a few years due to multiple injuries.

“With this van not only comes shelter, but safety comes with that shelter,” said Clifton.

It provides some shelter from the sun but not the heat.  He uses some of his $192 a month in food stamps to buy ice to keep cool.

“Dehydration sets in pretty quick in this kind of heat,” said Clifton.

According to the National Safety Council, in just 10 minutes the temperature inside your car can heat up 20 degrees on a hot day.

“With the water that they’re bringing around, I’m really glad to hear that because it’s very, very well needed,” said Clifton.

Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission spent the day handing out water bottles and Gatorade, hitting the streets and finding the thousands of people who live in their vehicles.  Staff also set up a hydration station outside its men’s shelter.  We caught up with them last summer when temperatures soared.

“If we do come across someone who is lethargic, and heat stroked, of course we take them in the van and take them to the hospital right away,” said Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission's Richard McAdams.

This summer the Union Gospel Mission is planning expanded outreach with showers, water, food and sunscreen.  Sunscreen is exactly what James needs due to his skin condition, vitiligo.

“You sunburn easier and stuff like that and when you get heavy sun, it’s twice as bad and makes you physically kind of sick,” said Clifton.

That’s why the windows are covered on his van, but the doors are wide open for a breeze.  He says he’s just to happy to have something to call his own.

“The glass isn’t half-empty; the glass is half-full,” said Clifton.

It’s not just about dealing with the hot temperatures; the Union Gospel Mission will work to get people into shelters and support services to end the cycle of homelessness.