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Older, Homeless Arizona Adults Struggle Even More Due To Heat And Coronavirus

Older adults experiencing homelessness right now are struggling. Because of the coronavirus, many public places like libraries are closed. And then, there is the heat.

Many of those older adults go to Justa Center in downtown Phoenix to cool off and take a break.

Justa Center is one of the only day programs for homeless seniors. People 55 and older are welcome to come in, cool off, get some food, even get their mail. But this summer has been brutal. Excessive heat warnings plus the coronavirus means everything is just harder.

"They just don't understand why they can't just walk into DES or Social Security and why the libraries aren't open," said Wendy Johnson with Justa Center. "As unsettled as we feel, those of us that have homes and steady income and healthy, imagine all of this and add a factor of homeless and hot and scared."

Every month, Johnson says she gets a list of known homeless people who have passed away. 

"Last summer, in the period between May 1 and the end of July, 10 of our seniors passed that come to Justa Center," she said. "This summer it’s 30. And we don’t know, and probably will never know how much heat and COVID played a role there."

Johnson says there’s a great deal of despair, discouragement and confusion among this population. She says they have also seen an increase in homicides and suicides. 

→  Get The Latest News On COVID-19 In Arizona 

Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.