Joplin homeless community relies on cooling centers to escape the heat

Watered Gardens will expand cooling center

Tina Ridenour filled up her water bottle as she cooled off inside of Watered Gardens.

The heat index in Joplin has been increasing and for the homeless, cooling centers are their only option for relief.

“There’s people that just can’t deal with it and this cooling center right here I know its small and everything, but it helps it really does” said Ridenour.

Watered Gardens opens its cooling center when the heat index is at triple digits, and when it is 80 degrees or above, they provide water inside and outside for those who need it.

“The front part of our outreach center, sometimes we’ll open up the dining center as well, depending on what staff or volunteer we have that can open that up. But yeah, any time that happens we open, so they have a cool place to go to and cool down” said Outreach Director Doug Gamble.

Gamble says they have seen an increase in visitors because of the heat.

“This year the cooling center has been a little bit more crowded at times then I’ve seen in the past but it does kind of vary, it does kind of go up and down really on how hot it is” added Gamble.

Although the cooling center stays busy, many people choose not to use it.

“We have people out there that don’t want to come in here because it’s so packed” added Ridenour.

Those that stay outside are at a high risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion or stroke. Ridenour says she has been seeing it happen.

“I just feel sad for them, I mean they’re around people that they know, but just to see them go down its really sad.”

She thinks more shelter options should be available because there are limited places where the homeless can go.

“I’m just grateful for most of these cooling centers that they do have, I am grateful” said Ridenour.
Watered Gardens is planning on expanding their cooling center as well as building a pavilion in the back for shade.


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