WACO, Texas — When the weather gets this hot, many of us scramble for a fan or the A/C. But not everyone has immediate access to those things. Fortunately, there is a shelter that people can turn to if they are seeking relief from the heat.
The doors are open at the Salvation Army in Waco for people looking for a fresh meal. Serving food is a daily operation at the community kitchen, but the facility doubles as a cooling shelter when temperatures outside reach 95 degrees or greater.
"It's just a place for them to come and get out of the heat for a while, let their body temperatures cool down," said Major Jim Taylor of the Salvation Army.
The criteria of 95 degrees mean actual temperature, not heat index. Taylor says they check the forecast from phone apps they find to be reliable and make the decision that way. Having a place to cool off is a vital resource for anyone, especially at this time of year. As those who work outdoors for a living will tell you, this heat means you have to pay attention to what your body is saying.
Kealen Fritsche of Mears Group was working on installing a gas line on Friday and said that's it not unusual for them to work all afternoon in the hot weather.
"Just take a break, get in the shade, re-hydrate. Sometimes you can sit in the truck," said Fritsche.
After the Salvation Army serves breakfast, they clean the building up and open it as a cooling shelter at noon; when lunch is served. While the community kitchen does assist the homeless, they say that anyone regardless of their situation is welcome to come in if they need to cool down or grab some water.
"We want people to have a place where they can go to cool their body temperature down so they don't have heat stroke. You know, that sort of a thing. So anybody can come by," said Taylor.
The kitchen relies on donations of water or other cold drinks to keep its supplies stocked. Providing an air-conditioned room along with free water may seem like a small gesture, but it might just be life-saving. It's all part of the Salvation Army's mission to serve the community. Taylor said they try to reflect the phrase "doing the most good" in all of their efforts.
"This time, in the hot summer months, doing the most good looks like opening a cooling center. Providing water for hydration," said Taylor.
The same resource is provided when the seasons flip around. The kitchen opens up as a warming center when people need refuge from the cold. Temperatures have to be 40 degrees or cooler for the warming center to be operating.
Central Texas is no stranger to the heat, but it's a good reminder to take care of yourself during the sweltering summer. Following heat safety tips is especially important during a Heat Advisory.
If you do have to be outside, take frequent breaks, keep the fluids coming and wear light clothing. You can further protect yourself and others by learning the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.