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Open Door Mission in need of items to prevent heat injuries, death

Posted at 10:09 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 23:09:53-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The rising temperatures are concerning for those that serve the homeless community and those living without essentials.

Each year in the United States, an average of 702 people die from heat-related injuries. Nearly 300 of those deaths have other contributing factors like health conditions and substance use.

But the other 400 are caused solely by be exposure to the heat.

That’s why the Open Door Mission is hosting their Beat the Heat drive. They're handing out things like fans, bottles of water, sunscreen, and chapstick to those who come through their outreach center.

Amy Harvey, chief community relations officer for the Open Door Mission, says as the temperatures rise, so do the number of heat-related injuries they see in guests.

“During the summer, it's just a ton of dehydration and not being protected from the sun," Harvey said.

They do their best to keep those they serve healthy by providing water, food, and ways to keep cool - something not readily available for many in the city.

“Most of the places where you can rent in Omaha, a lot of them, for the folks that we serve, are places where appliances aren’t provided, and a window air conditioner is not a thing," Harvey said.

During their first day of handing out fans to families, they gave away 60 units, and now only have about 100 left. Harvey isn't expecting that number to last them the week.

The mission is partnering with individuals and businesses like Shopko Optical for the Beat the Heat drive, in the hopes of bringing in more of these essential items.

“There are so many essential needs that people who are homeless and are facing homelessness don't have," said Victoria Green, general manager of the Papillion location. "When we have the opportunity to get involved, we want to take advantage of it.”

Though they've not resumed their regular street ministry just yet, the mission is also bringing these essentials to people staying on the streets when citizens call for welfare checks to certain areas.

“They’re in jeopardy of not being able to stay safe when the heat is coming on," Harvey said. "They don’t know where to go or what to do.”

Harvey is hoping that this year, the community will come together to prevent these heat dangers from reaching their neighbors.

“Making time for that conversation with people to get to know them," Harvey said. "Caring for them doesn’t mean I personally need to pull out money and give it to them, but can I Google some place to go. 'Who has these services and how can I help you get there?' Sometimes it's a ride.”

You can drop off water, sunscreen, chapstick, fans, and other essential items at any of the Open Door Mission drop-off centers.

They also say if you see someone staying on the street that you are concerned about to give them a call at 402-422-1111.

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