Dallas' Homeless Sweat It Out (fwd)

P. Myers (mpwr@u.washington.edu)
Tue, 28 Jul 1998 22:01:53 -0700 (PDT)


fyi.  Pat Myers
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 28 Jul 1998 13:36:44 PDT
From: "AP / CHRISTY LEMIRE, Associated Press Writer" <C-ap@clari.net>
Newsgroups: clari.local.texas, clari.news.weather, clari.news.issues.poverty
Subject: Dallas' Homeless Sweat It Out

  	  				 
	DALLAS (AP) -- Sweat beads up on Alma Rusk's forehead as she eats  
corn dogs and rice at a lunch table. A giant metal fan blows hot 
air on her back, drying the perspiration on her yellow T-shirt. 
	It's another scorching day in north Texas, and it's nearly as  
sweltering inside the Dallas Life Foundation homeless shelter as it 
is outside. 
	The sweet chill of air conditioning is too expensive for the  
foundation, which feeds and houses about 250 people daily in a 
three-story converted warehouse cooled only by fans. The other 
large downtown refuge for the homeless, Austin Street Shelter, also 
has no air conditioning. 
	That may change soon.  
	Dallas Life Foundation director Ray Bailey said Tuesday the  
privately funded center will ask for some of the $32.7 million 
President Clinton has made available to Texas. The state is one of 
11 in the South declared a disaster area eligible for aid because 
of the heat and drought. 
	``We're going to put in for $90,000,'' Bailey said. With the  
$35,000 in donations the shelter already has raised over several 
years, that should be enough to bring in artificially cooled air. 
	``We've never had enough money for air conditioning and we've  
been in this building 15 years,'' Bailey said. ``We've felt like 
we've needed it every year.'' 
	Even without air conditioners installed, Ms. Rusk says the  
shelter is better than where she and her husband usually live. 
	``We stay outside under a bridge,'' the 32-year-old woman said.  
``Some days we have the $5 to stay here and some days we don't. We 
find a tree and try to catch a breeze.'' 
	Dallas has an estimated 5,000 homeless people left out in the  
heat of a summer that has claimed at least 95 lives across the 
state. Many of the deaths have been among the elderly who live 
alone and suffer from other ailments. 
	North Texas is the hottest part of the state, with Tuesday the  
23rd consecutive day at or above 100 degrees. The heat and an 
accompanying drought have caused an estimated $1.5 billion in 
agricultural losses. 
	In 1980, Dallas saw 69 days of 100 degrees or more. But Toni  
Owens said this summer is even worse. The 38-year-old homeless 
woman and her husband came to the Dallas Life Foundation just to 
have a roof over their heads for a few hours. 
	``We try to stay in the shade. Sometimes we go to the library  
because I like to read,'' Ms. Owens said in a slow, quiet voice. 
She has lived on the streets about a year and carries a jug of 
water wherever she goes. ``I get tired and worn out. It's too hot 
and too many people are dying.'' 
	James Munoz of Dallas' Day Resource Center for the Homeless,  
which refers people to various social service agencies, said he's 
received no reports of homeless people dying from heat-related 
causes. In Houston, a 36-year-old homeless man died July 15 when 
the metal shed he used as shelter heated up like a frying pan. 
	Dallas Life Foundation residents huddle near the 25 large  
industrial fans that circulate air throughout the building. They 
sit listlessly under ceiling fans in the pews of the shelter's 
chapel and gulp water from giant coolers. 
	In the kitchen, where temperatures can exceed 130 degrees,  
workers rely on water to keep their body temperatures down. 
	``I must drink a gallon and a half a day,'' said 43-year-old  
chef Lonnie Barnett, sweat glistening on his forehead and arms. He 
cooks for about six hours a day. ``I'm sweating away all this 
weight I'm trying to lose.'' 
	About a mile away, at the Austin Street Shelter, the Rev. Bubba  
Dailey says that despite the lack of air conditioning, her center's 
300 homeless residents are better off than some. She says her 
shelter has never accepted federal, state or city money -- only 
private donations -- and doesn't plan to start now, even for air 
conditioning. 
	``I think we survive better than those in the community who are  
elderly and afraid to leave their houses,'' Ms. Dailey said. 
``We're open here. You can get up on the patio and walk around and 
we have the air moving around.'' 
-=-=-