On the front lines: the nonprofits behind Phoenix’s Heat Relief Network
September 20, 2023 — From its Downtown Phoenix headquarters, NourishPHX is a community hub serving the city’s residents. Between acting as a one-stop food bank, clothing bank, workforce development center and more, NourishPHX sets a goal of “giving hope and dignity back to the working poor in Phoenix.”
But, in the hot summer months, NourishPHX adds another service to its long repertoire: a hydration station.
From the start of May to the end of September, NourishPHX’s office is open to the public as a safe haven from the heat. Visitors are welcome to drop in for access to cold water and air conditioning.
“Every day, we’re open to the public,” says Executive Director Beth Fiorenza, “We have drop-in hours in the morning from about 8:30 a.m. and folks are here until noon, so anybody can come in during that time. We’re also outside with a cart of cold bottled water.”
But NourishPHX is just one leg of the Valley’s response to Phoenix’s record-breaking heat.
The Heat Relief Network is a partnership between the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), local nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations, and more, meant to provide relief in the area’s sweltering heat. Through a combination of cooling centers, respite centers, and hydration stations, the Heat Relief Network meets the needs of vulnerable populations throughout the Phoenix metro area.
Rightfully so, with record-breaking heat being a constant during this year’s summer in the Valley. July of 2023 has gone down as the hottest month in Phoenix’s recorded history, and the season as a whole is on track to become the hottest on record. For the city’s rising unhoused population as well as elderly individuals, low-income individuals, and more, access to the resources offered by the Heat Relief Network can be a matter of life and death.
“We've seen our numbers go up quite a bit, I think. Not only because of the heat, but because of inflation, and just the cost of everything right now— people are paying more for food, housing, for kids going back to school,” says Fiorenza. “We’re seeing an influx in families in the last few months that just need additional services.”
In providing this public good, Heat Relief Network members often need support from other resources. The City of Phoenix’s Office of Heat Response and Mitigation offers grants to help participants get the resources needed to run their stations. It also offers free water bottles, wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen, and more to nonprofit organizations that are providing heat relief services.
However, it isn't resources to provide at stations that are in as short of supply, but rather people to help run them.
“I think all of the agencies, speaking for us and other agencies that I know are in the network, need volunteers on a daily basis as well. We always need help during the day and during the week,” says Fiorenza.
But despite the possible difficulties in maintaining its hydration station, Fiorenza says that NourishPHX has no regrets.
“I think the agencies and nonprofits are here to help. We’re here to help the community and we're already open. So there's no reason not to,” she says. “We like to make anything available that we can to the community.”
For more information about the MAG Heat Relief Network, as well as open locations, visit https://azmag.gov/Programs/Heat-Relief-Network. Stay safe in extreme heat by following the City of Phoenix’s guidelines: “Stay cool, stay hydrated, stay informed.” To get involved with NourishPHX, visit https://nourishphx.org/volunteer-today.
Story by Lillian Finley
Photo: A sign designation a Cooling Center as part of the Maricopa Association of Governments Head Relief Network
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