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In the Heat of the Night ... and Day

Interfaith Sanctuary tries to help the homeless beat the heat on Boise's mean streets.

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With a dripping towel draped around his neck, David Wright sat in front of a fan in a storage shed at Boise's Interfaith Sanctuary on July 12, seeking brief reprieve from a sixth-straight day of triple-digit temperatures. Wright is one of hundreds of Boise's homeless to take advantage of the Sanctuary's "beat the heat" efforts, by providing shaded areas and distributing hot-weather supplies.

"I guess I'm very sensitive to the heat," said Wright. "It catches me off guard and I drop."

Blistering heat has caused Wright to collapse several times so far this summer. He told Citydesk that his access to medical care was limited, but doctors ruled out any underlying illness, citing Wright's age, 57, as the major factor in his heat sensitivity.

"Recently, it's been getting worse," he said. "People close to me say it looks like it's starting to beat me down."

Jayne Sorrels, Interfaith Sanctuary's executive director, said "beat the heat" has two main components:

"No. 1 is the gathering of supplies for people who are on the street during the day," she said. "Unfortunately, this is a time when our donations drop off significantly, because people don't think about homelessness in the summer."

As quickly as they can collect them, sanctuary volunteers are distributing bottled water, sunscreen, hats and visors to the homeless. More importantly, they swing the shelter's doors open each evening, just as Boise begins to bake.

"We open at about the peak time of the heat every night--6 p.m.," said Sorrels.

When the shelter closes at 7 a.m. scores of homeless men, women and children spill back on to Boise's hot pavement, but the Sanctuary tries to equip each with some of the donated hot-weather supplies.

"I think people don't think about what you do if you don't have a place to go to stay cool," said Sorrels. "There are only so many options when you have no money. You might go to the park and sit by the river, but it's still hot."

Wright said he spends most of his days in the air-conditioned main branch of the Boise Public Library, searching online for work. He picks up odd jobs around town, but because he is unable to work outdoors, his options in the summer become very limited.

"It sucks," he said. "I'm 57. It's not going to get any better. But without the Sanctuary, I'd be out on the street. I'd be lost."

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