Surviving the heat: How the homeless community is coping during this extended heatwave

Local News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — On the day that ties the longest stretch of 90-degree temperatures that Roanoke has seen, many have been retreating to air-conditioned spaces, but for those in the streets, finding that sanctuary is often not an option.

“I pick the coolest spot, like a parking garage, and just sit there, hang out, until it’s time for me to go to work,” said Jey Jones, who has been living on the streets since February.

Passersby see the homeless take cover in the shade provided by the buildings of downtown. Even finding water to stay hydrated can prove challenging.

“It’s been miserable. It’s been hot. I’ve been sitting. I just came from Carilion trying to get [rehydrated] because I’m living on the streets and you don’t get enough of this,” said Quinton Cruse, indicating his water bottle fresh from the cooler.

For drivers of a repurposed and revamped ambulance, though, the foot is put to the brake to stop and serve those on the streets.

“It’s really sad to see people laying on concrete and doorways when we go back to our air-conditioned homes,” said Dawn Sandoval, founder of The Least of These Ministries. “They have no escape from this heat right now. They’re out here 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The Least of These Ministries (TLOT) works to provide Roanoke’s homeless community with resources they need for living on the streets, assist them in finding housing, and, ultimately, help them get back on their feet.

Equipped with food, cold water, clothes, and sleeping mats, the TLOT van can be spotted on the side of the road, with its back doors and workers arms wide open. Those who use TLOT’s resources and services walk to the van’s rear to be served.

After popsicles were melting in the back of the TLOT van, Bayou Snowballs offered their services. Bayou Snowballs has opened its doors for the homeless community and will serve them a cool treat to beat the heat. TLOT handed out tickets to their visitors for them to redeem a free snow cone of their choosing.

Those in need say they appreciate the recognition of their difficulties by businesses and are grateful for the outreach.

“It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful to actually see some people actually do care about the unfortunate community,” expressed Jones.

Although they appreciate the help while finding their way, those living on the street say they are frustrated by the way they are treated.

“Don’t judge people because their situations. Judge them by their character. [Just] because I’m homeless doesn’t mean that I’m [not] a man and that God don’t love me,” Cruse said.

Jones, who is working to get back on his feet, reminds others that anyone could be in this situation and to realize that those in this community are working to get out of the situation they are in.

“There’s a lot of people out here who don’t understand that you’re one paycheck away from being right out here with the rest of us. Then you’re going to have to learn the ropes,” Jones said.

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