It is easy to connect the needs of the homeless in winter because the past few winters have been so cold and challenging from a snow, ice and temperature perspective. However, the weather can be just as challenging to those on the streets during the summer months.
There are some critical needs for our Outreach teams during these months as they try to help those on the streets cope with the weather fluctuations and rain. Heat Stoke and trench Foot are two commonly seen medical conditions which need immediate treatment to minimize the impact on individuals. Shortages in bottled water, rain coats, umbrellas and dry socks are some of the challenges but even items as simple as sunscreen, bug spray and access to poncho’s can make a real difference in our clients ability to cope with severe weather.
Heat stroke is a challenging condition to combat as the symptoms by themselves or in conjunction with others can be related to many different reasons. Some of these symptoms include high body temperature above 104 degrees, altered mental or behavioral state, nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate and headache. Many individuals may not realize that they are experiencing many of these together and may chalk it up to just catching a “bug” or being “under the weather.” For our Outreach team, it is critical to put these indicators together to get a more complete picture of what may be medically going on. The Outreach staff works with a nurse practitioner in the field to help identify these symptoms as well as with the Pedigo Clinic at Horizon House for assessments of those on the street. If you recognize these or other symptoms in someone, please encourage them to seek medical attention. We have recently set new records for rain in the month of July for Indianapolis and these challenges will continue to present themselves as those on the street dealing with high heat and large volumes of rain.
Each member of the 14 agency collaborative team has received additional training to identify these and other symptoms that are challenges for those living on the streets. In addition, Outreach teams see many occurrences of Trench foot which is a tingling and/or itching sensation that can include pain, swelling, blotchy skin along with numbness and a heavy feeling in their feet. This typically is a result of being in a wet environment for long periods of time and not having access to dry socks and other foot apparel as shoes. If these symptoms are not treated they can result in even more severe problems such as blisters forming and eventually by skin and tissue dying and falling off. According to a Homeless Health Care Case Report on trench foot published in June 2007, even exposure to temperatures as mild as 55 degrees for ten hours has been shown to cause trench foot. We have experienced temperatures that flex this low and then go into the 80’s and 90’s during the day with a large amount of rain. These conditions can present a higher chance of trench foot becoming an issue. Compounding these factors can be the use of tobacco or alcohol can decrease awareness of these conditions if present in someone’s extremities. Many of these symptoms can receive interventions ahead of time if some of the items mentioned above are accessible to those with the need.
To assist with these needs and others, please contact HealthNet’s Homeless Initiative Program at (317) 957-2275 or at 1835 N. Meridian St. Indianapolis, IN 46202. Contact can also be made through www.knowoutlets.org directly to the Indianapolis Professional Blended Street Outreach team of which HIP is a partner organization. A comprehensive list of summer and early fall needs can be found below:
- Rain Jackets and Ponchos
- Bottled water
- Bug repellent
- Dry socks (uni-sex)
Post by Matt Holland