Summer is a dangerous time to be homeless. When temperatures top 90 degrees, as they did again on Tuesday, there’s a risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and sunstroke.
To reduce this risk, outreach workers have been hitting the streets, hoping to convince more people to come inside. One of those workers, Chris Curtin, was out on a recent morning, as he is most weekdays.
The sun was just rising over the buildings in downtown Providence, and the temperature was already hotter than 80 degrees.
“We see people who will just be sunburned every single day. Just beet, beet red,” said Curtin, who works for Crossroads Rhode Island, the state's largest homeless shelter.
“They don’t have anywhere to go, or to get out of the sun, especially when they’re panhandling," explained Curtin. "So they kinda have to risk their health, to get other needs met.”
It’s Curtin’s job to check on the homeless. On hot days like this one, he tries to convince them that getting out of the heat is more important than panhandling for small change.
Looking across Kennedy Plaza, Curtin noticed a familiar face. He walked over to find Norman Thweatt sitting in the shade.
“It’s hard, there’s not too many places on hot days where you can go and get shade and cool off," said Thweatt. "It’s harder to find stuff to drink like water that you need during the day.”
A recovering alcoholic, Thweatt recently found a job. But he still hasn’t managed to find stable housing.
“A lot of businesses don’t want us around, so you try to go in there and get shade and cool air for a minute and they throw you right out because you’re homeless," Thweatt said. "They act like every homeless person is a bad person, but some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life are homeless, some of the most loyal people are homeless.”
Despite the stigma, Thweatt said he remains hopeful. He’s saving up money for the down payment on a new apartment. And one morning soon, if all goes well, he’ll have a place to live, a place to find some relief from the beating sun.