WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, many churches and shelters are forced to limit the number of people coming through their doors. During a heatwave, emergency shelters pop up across the region.
“It’s really bad in this area. It’s really bad and the shelters are full,” said Darryl Evans.
The heatwave is affecting those experiencing homelessness more than others this summer.
“I’m homeless so I have to be out here all day long and try to beat the heat. It’s really, really hard,” said Evans.
Hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, shelters across Northeast Pennsylvania like the family shelter at the Wilkes-Barre Salvation Army are at full capacity this summer.
“We’re still here serving people it’s just a little differently the way we’re doing it,” said Lt. Oziel Urbaez with The Salvation Army.
Now due to COVID-19 restrictions, The Salvation Army unfortunately can’t allow anyone inside that’s trying to beat the heat but they are doing what they can by providing water.
“In times of heat, we typically open our building for people to come in for a little while, a little rest bit and get a drink. Right now we can’t really have people inside of our building,” said Lt. Urbaez.
Without a roof over their head, Darryl says people do the best they can when they are out on the streets.
“Staying on the grass over here on River Street down by the river, or staying in the parking garage or something like that, that’s where people are sleeping at,” he said. The heat makes life harder for people experiencing homelessness like him.
“I stay in the shade. I try to drink a lot of water. It’s really brutal out here.”
During a heatwave, the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department has to step in for those that end up suffering from one of three heat-related illnesses.
“Heat stroke being the worst, one step down from that is heat exhaustion,” said Chief Jay Delaney with the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department.
Heat cramps are the least severe. But fire chief Delaney says the more time people are out in the heat, the more they succumb to a heat-related illness. The best thing for anyone to do is to keep hydrated.
“If you’re in the outdoors, hydration hydration hydration, lots of water or sports drinks, stay out of the elements,” said Delaney.
One other thing to mention, Delaney says if you are in a high rise building without air conditioning and have to use a common area to cool off—make sure you wear your mask.