Firefighters see increase in heat-related injuries, mental health calls from homeless

Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 10:40 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -The ongoing heatwave is taking a toll on the city’s homeless and unhoused population.

First responders are seeing it up close and personal as more calls are coming in to rescue them out of the dangerously humid temperatures.

“Calls have been edging up two, three, four more each day. We are going from averaging normally 13-14 a day to average 18-20 a day, says St. Louis City Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson. “We know the heat is causing some of the psychiatric illnesses that we’re responding on.”

News 4 found several homeless people taking a break from the sun at Kiener Plaza, including unhoused resident Fred Lowery.

“You gotta be real about the situation. You gotta find the shade, find the breeze and don’t get out in the sun if you don’t have to,” says Lowery.

Lowery says despite being homeless he prefers to be outside in the park by the fountains and under the trees rather than go to a cooling center.

“I stay here by the water. Splash a little on my face every now and then,” says Lowery.

“The homeless people are out in the heat all day. They don’t always drink a lot of water,” says Chief Jenkerson. “Some of them are drinking alcoholic beverages and the heat really affects them.”

“It’s kind of shocking. It went from pretty decent weather to a total heat wave and really my body wasn’t expecting that,” says Lowery.

On Thursday, many residents were taking a break from the heat at the Barr Branch Library on Jefferson Avenue.

Every public library in the city serves as a safe haven to those stuck outside under the blazing sun.

“We knew it was coming. We didn’t know it would be here this early,” says Chief Jenkerson.

“My advice is don’t drink the alcohol. Drink water,” says Lowery.

For people who have a home but don’t have an air conditioner or need financial utility bill assistance call Cool Down St. Louis at 314-241-1860.

The city and county is offering to install AC units for free. For more information visit .