'We’re Very Concerned': Metro Phoenix Heat Relief Network Needs Help

Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - 4:13pm
Updated: Thursday, April 15, 2021 - 8:08am

A regional network designed to help vulnerable people finds itself in need of help. And lives are at stake.

The Valley’s Heat Relief Network wants to avoid a repeat of last year when 207 people in Maricopa County died due to heat related causes between May and October. That’s more than double the year before when the county health department confirmed 85 heat associated deaths.

“So we see a very direct correlation between the regional heat relief network and the numbers of partners that it has and the amount of support that we’re able to offer and the number of people who are losing their lives to the extreme summer heat,” Amy St. Peter, deputy executive director of the Maricopa Association of Governments, told the Phoenix City Council on Tuesday.

The Heat Relief Network was formed in 2005 after a weeklong heat wave led to the deaths of about 30 people who were unsheltered. It’s a regional partnership of cities, nonprofits, businesses and faith-based groups that provide water and cooling centers. 

“We’re very concerned,” St. Peter said. “It’s never a good time of year to experience homelessness but particularly over the summer months it can and often is deadly.”

In 2020, MAG reported 64 partners in the Heat Relief Network compared to 142 in 2019. Cooling centers represented the biggest drop due to closed buildings and lack of volunteers. In 2020, MAG reported 27 centers compared to 94 in 2019. 

“So we need more partners, we need more sites," St. Peter said. "There are very, very good protocols that can be put into place to make it safe to open your doors, even over the summer months, even as we’re still recovering from the pandemic.”

The Heat Relief Network also includes donations sites for water and toiletries. MAG creates a map that lists cooling centers, hydration centers and collection sites in Maricopa County. Individuals and groups interested in partnering can find information at MAG’S website.