Homeless handle record-setting heat wave

As the heat wave continues to cook the Midwest, homeless residents without many options to escape the sun are left finding ways to cope.

During the midday heat, two Carbondale residents, King David Gates and Wilson Franklin, found relief in the shade of the town square pavilion on the corner of Route 51 and Route 13.

The two said finding places such as the pavilion to spend the day is what they do when it’s hot. Making trips to the store to get cold drinks also frequents their daily routine.

Gates, of Carbondale, said he wets his shirt and hat with ice water to stay cool and prevent heat-related illnesses.

He said the heat happens every year, but it’s worse now than he can remember.

“We’re sweating even in the shade,” Franklin said.

Wilson Franklin, of Memphis, Tenn., tries to keep cool under Carbondale’s city pavilion Tuesday. Franklin said he is semi-homeless, but is staying with a friend. “There is a lot of things that God has blessed us with, and there are a lot of things worse than being homeless and in this heat,” said King David Gates, of Carbondale, a long time friend of Franklin. According to the National Weather Service website, the next three days will have highs ranging from 99 to 103 degrees. Jessica Tezak | Daily Egyptian

Carbondale City Hall and area churches are offering refuge from the sun by providing water and cooling areas, while many businesses are noticing an increase in afternoon customers seeking a chilled atmosphere.

City manager Kevin Baity said although City Hall provides the cooling center service, in the last five or six years he has only seen about a dozen residents take advantage of it.

Because many churches and retailers offer an air-conditioned retreat, the service provided by City Hall doesn’t seem to have a demand in the community, he said.

On the other hand, the Good Samaritan House in Carbondale has seen an increase in check-ins and has made extra services available. The organization offers services to the needy in the area, such as an emergency shelter, a transitional housing program, a soup kitchen, a food pantry and an emergency assistance program, according to its website.

Kayla Ward, emergency shelter and assistance coordinator, said the house, which is supported by area ministries and state grants, offers water, shelter, food and emergency assistance.

She said while the shelter usually prefers the residents to be out in the community during the day to seek employment, exceptions are being made during the extreme conditions.

“It’s a huge benefit to the community,” Ward said. “If we weren’t here, I’m not sure what some people would do.”

Businesses, such as PK’s in Carbondale, have also noticed an influx of afternoon patrons.

PK’s bartender Mike Martinek, of Carbondale, said more people are stopping through midday, especially local faces.

Gates, who now stays in a hotel with support he receives from the government, was once homeless and said he believes one day he will win the lottery.

He said if he won the lottery, he would donate clothes and food to churches and shelters, and open a youth program during the summer, so kids stay out of trouble and create jobs for homeless people.

“I want to contribute something back in the way that the people and community have helped me,” Gates said. “Especially in this tough time.”

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About Tiffany Blanchette

Senior at SIUC majoring in photojournalism and zoology. Can be easily reached at tblanchette@dailyegyptian.com or 618-536-3311 ext. 254.

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