Lorenzo Pearson hung a rug on the fence next to his tent. In the middle of the day, with the sun directly on 12th Street in Phoenix, Arizona, it casts a line of shadow. “Last week we had three deaths in a row,” he says. The heat has increased for the homeless who live here in roadside tents.
Twice a week the whole tent camp has to go to the side, and then a broom wagon goes through 12th Street. “Sometimes a tent will be there and the police will go to see what’s going on,” Pearson says. “Then they will find the body.”
In 2020, 323 people died as a direct result of the heat in Marigopa County, where Phoenix is located. This year, by mid-July the city already had more than that number. Heat records have been broken again in the hottest city in America. The west of the country is going through the fourth heat wave of the season. July is already historically special, after the hottest June ever recorded.
Refrigeration from April to October
When Stacey Champion pulls up on 12th Street, there is no one in sight. But as soon as her first bundle of water starts to die, the tents open and the street fills up. Stacey calls herself a ‘heat enthusiast’, struggling to pay extra attention to the deadly problem of heat. “Heat is a quiet killer, it’s going on inside. Your organs are paralyzed, you’re drowning. No one noticed you were dying.”