‘It’s real hot’: Cooling centers open for homeless as El Paso’s temperatures rise

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — As temperatures rise in the Borderland, nearing triple digits, El Paso’s homeless are looking for places to stay cool.

“The heat of the sun is real hot — we are darkening our skin,” said one El Paso homeless man who told KTSM 9 News that he’s been in search of trees to rest under during hot days. “Try to stay in the shade of the trees, but it’s real hot.”

The Opportunity Center for the Homeless opened cooling centers on Friday at its shelters. Officials with the Opportunity Center said they are prepared for an influx of people looking for relief as temperatures rise. The center will use a local hotel for additional space and said anyone is welcome to go, even if it’s just to cool off.

“We are still working under pandemic-related conditions. So we use as an overflow shelter — a hotel that has been established on the Westside of town for that purpose,” said John Martin, deputy director for the Opportunity Center of El Paso. “And that allows us to keep our numbers at around 50 for the men and 35 for the woman.”

Martin said the women’s shelter is at capacity, but transportation will be provided to the hotel and that the shelter is now doing rapid COVID-19 testing.

“Have results within 15 minutes. If, by chance, they’re positive, we have the protocols in place through the Office of Emergency Management, where we take advantage of another hotel in the Northeast for quarantine purposes. But, if they are negative, they are more than welcome to come in,” said Martin.

The Opportunity Center for the Homeless is looking for the community’s help with donations of items such as water, baseball caps and sunblock.

This week, the city of El Paso kicked off Heat Preparedness month with the following tips for residents:

  • drink plenty of non-sugared and non-alcoholic fluids (consult a health care provider if you need to restrict fluid intake)
  • protect yourself with a wide-brimmed, loose-fitting hat that allows for ventilation and protects from the sun
  • stay in air-conditioned places when possible
  • reduce exercise during periods of high temperatures
  • use sunscreen
  • wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing

Health officials also urge residents to keep their pets safe with these tips:

  • make sure your pet is tested for heartworm
  • provide proper shade
  • give them plenty of fresh, clean water in a shaded area
  • never leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle
  • do not walk your dog in extreme heat as their sensitive paw pads can burn

For more information, visit CDC Extreme Heat Information. The Extreme Weather Task Force is accepting fan donations that can be dropped off at any El Paso or Horizon Fire Stations. Those who need a fan can dial 211 to check for eligibility criteria and receive details on how to receive a free fan.

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