Beat the heat: How residents fill up and cool off at one center in Milford
Connecticut has activated its extreme hot weather protocol through Sunday as temperatures have climbed above 95 degrees this week. Municipalities and organizations across the state have coordinated to open their doors to help people get out of the heat – Beth-El Center in Milford is one of them.
For nearly 40 years, the center has offered services to help curb homelessness and hunger, from temporary shelter to meal services. This year, the center is also opening its dining hall for the first time as a cooling center.
“There is no glam, but over the past several years, we’ve seen an increase in unsheltered homelessness. And what that has really caused is the need for greater services, including brick-and-mortar spaces where people can be during the day,” said Jennifer Paradis, executive director at Beth-El. “Just like we talk about our soup kitchen as a free restaurant, the cooling center is really here for anyone.”
The dining hall offers a cool space at about 70 degrees for community members to stop by, have free lunch, a glass of water and a shower. Paradis said the center saw a need to open as a cooling center after the pandemic restricted visitor capacity in other community spaces over the last two years. And the reality is that more spaces will probably have to do the same as heat waves become more common, she added.
“We are living in the reality of climate change,” Paradis said. “The impact of climate change on housing and subsequently homelessness are inextricably linked. And so we need to wrap our arms around this and our services around it and understand that climate change is an issue of housing justice.”
Beth-El’s cooling center is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Click on the play button above this story to listen to a lunch service at the cooling center in an audio postcard by Connecticut Public’s Camila Vallejo.
To find a cooling center, call 2-1-1 or visit uwc.211ct.org/hotweather/