“If we can just get them here so that we can make sure that they’re safe, that’s our number one goal,” Desire Tegge, Coachella Valley Rescue Mission’s human resource specialist, shared.
The heat is sweeping across the valley, but those who feel it the most are the homeless.
“Heat stroke, heat stress,” Tegge continued. “I don’t think they understand that it’s happening to them because it’s just so hot and it happens so fast. That’s why we try to get out there as soon as we can to try to make them aware of the situation. We want them to stay cool.”
Across the country, heat kills more people than hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes combined.
It contributes to some 1,500 deaths per year, and advocates say about half of those people are homeless.
So to help this vulnerable population, the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission goes out into the community five days a week with countless supplies even in these intense temperatures.
“They’re absolutely amazing. These guys are out there in the heat, making sure everybody else is taken care of,” Tegge said. “We bring extra water, we make sure we bring them Gatorade, snacks, and we have Grace-to-go bags. It has snacks in it and it has a little card that has a map to our facility on it.”
Just on Wednesday, they helped about 30 people in Desert Hot Springs, but their work expands beyond going out into the community.
“Not only are we here with the cooling center, if you need to come earlier, you can and if you want to stay later, you can,” Tegge said. “We serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They can come if you need hygiene products or if you need anything else, we’re also here for that too.”
But their main goal is to get this population the long-term help they need.
“If they decide to come to the mission and this is something that they want to do, to stay here, the first step is to check in with our overnight shelter, the cooling center,” Tegge explained. “Then we get them into our clinic, and then we get them into mental health. Once they’ve seen all of that we get them into our program… We’re here to make sure that they can live a better life, some of them have to start all the way over.”
Tegge continued, “When they live here, we make them get a job. They have to get a job after a certain point, but they save 80% of their income so when it’s time to get a house, we have a housing department on site that helps them with housing. Once they do that, then they’ll have a nice little nest egg so they’re not struggling right when they get out there into society. We have a thrift store that helps furnish the apartments or the houses. So we start from the bottom all the way up.”
And their cooling center is not just for the homeless.
If your A/C doesn’t work well or if you don’t want to pay a big electricity bill each month, they open their doors to the entire community where they also provide a free meal from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.