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Phoenix heat response plan to focus on unsheltered people

Phoenix expects to have a single coordinated heat response plan fully operational by May 1. 

The citywide plan will focus heavily on several blocks around the Human Services Campus between downtown and the state Capitol complex. It’s where hundreds of people are living in tents. 

“We heard that there’s now over 721 folks out there,” said Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari who represents the area. “We just need to put everything we can behind this.”

While every heat-related death is unique, David Hondula, Phoenix’s heat response and mitigation director, told a city subcommittee a typical case involves a middle-aged man outdoors with no water. 

“Subsequent investigation often finds that heat decedents are unsheltered and in many cases have indications of drug and/or alcohol use at the time of death,” he said. “It is clear from examining the records, that our best opportunity to move the needle in terms of heat-associated deaths is by helping those unsheltered and those battling substance abuse.”

The city expects to add more beds and bathrooms to the Human Services Campus after a structure is installed in the next month.

Hondula said the Phoenix Fire Department, which responded to more than 600 heat illness calls last summer, could use the public’s help. 

“Residents who call in cases of possible heat illness that they spot on the streets could do an even better public service by remaining on the scene until first responders arrive, helping flag down those first responders and ensuring they get to the right spots as quickly as possible,” he said.

Hondula said signs directing people to cooling stations and water resources will be posted on streets and public buildings. The full heat response plan should be presented to the council by April. 

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.