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AmeriCorps Prepare Low-Income Phoenix Communities For Extreme Weather

AmeriCorps Members
(Photo by Lauren Gilger - KJZZ)
New AmeriCorps Resilience members Olivia Hutchins and Nicholas Roosevelt are launching a year of service in Phoenix to help low-income areas become more resilient to climate change.

Phoenix is no stranger to extreme weather. The city has experienced flash floods, record-breaking heat, and water shortages in recent years.

Now, two AmeriCorps members, Olivia Hutchins and Nicholas Roosevelt, have arrived in the Valley to launch a year of service focused on helping low-income areas of the city become more resilient to these kinds of extreme weather events.

The program is a partnership between non-profit organization Cities of Service and AmeriCorps, along with Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s taking place in 10 cities around the country this year.

Hutchins and Roosevelt said they plan to target two areas in Phoenix for their work this year - the Van Buren corridor and Maryvale. They’re planning to create water hydration stations, plant shade trees and work on other projects to get the community involved, they said.

“It’s also about spreading the awareness of … how to self-sustain during an emergency event,” Hutchins said. “So, we usually say 72 hours. So, 72 hours after an emergency event of flooding or heat, you want to be prepared and have the supplies that you need to deal with that 72 hours.”

So, one of the ideas they’re brainstorming right now is one in which families could make their own kit to prepare them with food, water and basic supplies to help during that 72-hour period.

Hutchins, a recent graduate of Western Washington University, has studied disaster response and emergency management. Roosevelt said he moved to Phoenix in August and said within a few weeks of moving here, the Valley was hit by huge monsoon storms. He and his wife lost power and some of their food spoiled, he said.

“It was a very eye-opening experience thinking about, well, maybe for some people that’s not that big of a deal, but for other people that could be a serious, serious problem,” he said.

That’s why he said they are focusing on helping low-income communities who may not be able to bounce back as quickly from a storm or an extreme heat wave.

To make their work lasting, both Roosevelt and Hutchins said it’s all about education. They want to start with small projects, like planting a community garden, to get the communities connected and invested in where they live. Then, they’ll identify people within the community who can become leaders.

Roosevelt said they also want to work in local schools as well to help educate kids about preparedness for extreme weather.

“Education is something that carries on; it can be passed on, and it is something that’s very easy to do,” he said. “That’s something that we hope to do throughout all of the projects that we do, whether it is helping get an area like this get shade in here, or a workshop dedicated to extreme heat."

Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.