Paul grabbed the half-empty, plastic bottle he planned to fill with water from the bus station later that afternoon. He had been camping along the Cumberland River for two days trying to find a spot with some shade, he said. Although he could easily have stayed cool under a bridge, he chose to endure the heat so he could camp alone, hidden behind trees, boulders, and bushes.
“Believe me, I appreciate it when the sun goes down,” said Paul, 40, who called himself homeless. “Summers in Nashville can be brutal. But sleeping on the streets can also be very scary. I’m not sure which is worse.”
No doubt about it, July and August can be uncomfortable outside of air-conditioned environments. There’s also a moderate amount of rainfall in Nashville during the summer. If you’re homeless, that’s a lot of external elements to contend with.
“Many of the homeless men, women, and children in our community do not have ready access to water,” said Glenn Cranfield, president and CEO of Nashville Rescue Mission. “We recognize that extremely hot weather poses hardships for homeless people who are elderly or disabled, struggle with alcohol or drug addiction, suffer from medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or who take medications that cause sensitivity to the hot sun. People can become dehydrated rapidly in extremely hot weather and anyone ‘passed out,’ lying in the sun or badly sunburned is medically at risk. It’s why we activate our Hot Patrol teams whenever the temperature rises above 90 degrees.”
“With more than half of summer days in Nashville experiencing highs in the 90s, the heat can cause lots of problems for the homeless, especially those who are unsheltered,” said Eric Grindeland, senior director of guest ministries at the Mission. “Our Hot Patrol teams are riding around, handing out bottles of water, with the hope of reaching those who are homeless, addicted, and possibly sick, and who may not have the insight and judgment to get out of the heat. We want to bring them back to the Mission, where they can get out of the heat, get cold water, and in the midst of providing them with radical hospitability, we can give them some hope for a better future.”
Homeless people die much earlier than the general population, with a life expectancy of 48 years, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Sometimes offering a bottle of water to a homeless person could make the difference between life and death.
“I’ve slept on the streets of Nashville in the summertime,” says Joe (58), “and it’s not fun. Nashville can feel like an oven, especially when the wind is not blowing. It costs $2.00 at one of the gift shops downtown for a bottle of water. When you only have a few dollars in your pocket, you start to wonder how thirsty you really are. Thirst and hunger make people do crazy things—like getting water from places, you wouldn’t normally. I’m done with sleeping on the streets. Nashville Rescue Mission makes it an easy decision for me. Here I’m given a safe, cool place to sleep. I can get three meals a day. And in the summer, cold water is available all day long. They are giving me a chance to change my life and I’m grateful.”
“I’ve been homeless off and on for over 10 years,” says Dewayne (53). “It’s rough sleeping outside. Not only is it hot in the summer, but it’s also dangerous. Whether it’s dealing with fleas, ticks, wild dogs, spiders, or snakes to worrying about who’s going to sneak up on you while you’re sleeping and steal your stuff or attack you.” Since coming to the Mission, Dewayne has gotten off drugs and alcohol. He’s currently interviewing for a job and hopes to eventually move into his own apartment. “Staying at the Mission has been a blessing. I have a roof over my head, and I don’t have to worry about things like the heat, lightening, or other environmental issues.”
“Whether it’s the summer or winter, we try to accommodate people in any way we can,” said Grindeland. “During the day, if it gets really hot our guests can come into the dayroom, where it’s nice and cool. This is something we make available at our Men’s Campus as well as our Women’s Campus.”
At Nashville Rescue Mission, those in need find more than just a cool place to rest, or a cold drink of water. With your help, those who are broken, homeless, and hurting, find hope. Thank you.