As previously covered by Local Profile, the sweltering weather brings concerns of heat-related deaths. While the CDC, doctors and first responders issue warnings, the most vulnerable people are those with no shelter to flee the relentless heat.
This year has proven to be a challenging one thanks to the combination of a variety of factors. First and most clearly, the heat in North Texas is a major obstacle in people’s lives. The Salvation Army’s North Texas Area Command has a temperature threshold for activating its heat relief services.
“This year, that threshold was reached in May — earlier than we’ve seen for years,” Christina Cavalier, Senior Director of Community Relations for the Salvation Army of North Texas, tells Local Profile.
But the heat is only adding hardships to an already desperate situation. The biggest challenge the organization has faced in Collin County is helping people navigate the rising cost of living. “Our North Texas neighbors are having to make difficult choices of paying rising rents, rising food costs, access to childcare, and rising transportation costs,” continues Cavalier. People with fixed incomes have had to relocate thanks to rising rents, from $300 a month to over $800 over the past year. “The math just isn’t working.”
People who might have faced eviction, or had to relocate, now have to figure out how to find shelter from the extreme temperatures. According to Cavalier, “We are seeing a significant 30% increase of people seeking help from our food pantries. Thousands of North Texans across the region rely on the Salvation Army’s support, she adds.
For this reason, the Salvation Army provides not only heat-related aid like cooling stations for people suffering from heat strokes as well as boxed fans and water but also dispenses a variety of financial support. They provide financial assistance for families that could have their services shut off due to lost wages, including affordable childcare facilities to help working parents and emergency mobile feeding units to bring relief directly to vulnerable populations.
The services provided by the organization try to be as holistic as possible to meet the community’s needs. “We’re most focused on providing support that goes beyond temporary assistance,” says Cavalier, “We help clients break the cycles of poverty, addiction, and homelessness all year long.” According to Cavalier, they try to connect with families whenever they get in contact with the organization. “When a family comes to our centers in Collin County for food, we inquire about their living situation,” she says. They also put them in contact with resources in the community aimed at helping individuals and families achieve long-term stability and self-sufficiency.
As we navigate COVID-19’s economic impact, helping our community is more essential than ever. But what can residents do to help? Says Cavalier, “Financial contributions are most needed to provide immediate support like food and shelter. You can make a monetary donation at SalvationArmyNorthTexas.org — all gifts made locally stay locally to directly help your neighbors in need.” Financial aid is not the only way to provide support for your neighbors: volunteers are crucial to providing quality social services.