Chicago really comes to life in the summertime. Between the warm weather and school being out, most people can agree that summer is one of the best times to live in our city.
But that’s not true for everyone. In fact, for thousands of Chicagoans living in poverty, summer brings a whole host of problems.
The High Cost of Summer
When temperatures become unbearable, there’s nothing better than sitting inside in the cool air conditioning. But many struggle to afford the higher-than-usual utility bills that accompany the hot Chicago summers. For families that must choose between air conditioning and other basic essentials, it’s not unusual to have to do without cool air during the summer months.
Of course, for many, air conditioning isn’t just a luxury — it’s a necessity. Vulnerable people like the elderly are particularly susceptible to dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke . . . all potentially deadly when left untreated. According to the Center for Disease Control, an average of 658 Americans die from heat exhaustion every year.
For individuals facing a utilities shut-off, The Salvation Army offers short-term emergency support services — assistance with their current utilities expenses to help them get back on their feet.
Greater Risks for the Homeless
But that’s just the inside. Like the winter, summer is an extremely dangerous time to be homeless — especially for children. The latest data from the Illinois State Board of Education reports that nearly 54,000 homeless boys and girls were enrolled in the Illinois public school system during the 2015-16 school year. These children have a place to go during the school day, but in the summer, many are left without safe shelter.
For children exposed to extreme heat, the risk of heat-related illness increases substantially. The fact is, after a certain point, sitting in a shaded area can’t protect you from the high temperatures, and the homeless aren’t guaranteed refuge in private businesses or buildings.
Families currently experiencing homelessness shouldn’t have to endure the summer heat. The Metropolitan Division offers homeless and lodging services for individuals who have nowhere to go — and we provide specialized childhood development and care services, so as to minimize disruption in a homeless child’s day-to-day life.
School’s Out . . . Then What?
Even for families who have homes, summer break can be an incredible financial strain. When schools let out, parents who work are left to find childcare, which is itself a great expense, and one that your average paycheck-to-paycheck household probably can’t cover. While some two-parent households may have flexible enough schedules to accommodate their children being home in the daytime, it’s another matter entirely for single, working parents. The unfortunate truth is that many parents are often forced to cut back on their hours at work, which can lead to financial instability. The Salvation Army offers affordable, quality daycare to alleviate this all-too-common stress for low- and moderate-income parents.
Help Chicagoans Keep Cool
The summer weather is unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help those affected by it. Members of the Bed & Bread Club™ help The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division provide regular meals and homeless services for families and individuals in need. If you’re not already a member, and want to help struggling Chicagoans enjoy stable, worry-free summers, we urge you to join the Bed & Bread Club today. For more information, visit BedAndBreadChicago.org.