Summer in Arizona is hot — often more than 100 degrees.
That kind of heat is uncomfortable. And for people without access to air conditioning, it can be deadly.
“What gets really dangerous here is when we get to that part of the heat season where temperatures do not drop below 90 degrees at night,” says Rev. Katie Sexton-Wood of the Arizona Faith Network. “They can’t cool down their bodies.”
For the past few summers, the Arizona Faith Network, an interfaith organization, has offered training and support to churches, synagogues, and other faith centers in the Phoenix area, to help them become cooling centers — air-conditioned buildings that are open to the public so people can cool down.
Last year, these centers helped thousands of Arizonans survive brutal heat waves. Sexton-Wood says some also offered food, water, medical care, and even a safe place to sleep, without proselytizing or discriminating about who could get relief.
She says that as the climate warms, faith centers can help protect vulnerable people from extreme heat.
“As people of faith, we’re driven by this moral mandate to care for our neighbors, to love our neighbors, and to serve our neighbors across all of the traditions,” she says.
Reporting credit: Ethan Freedman/ChavoBart Digital Media