Danielle McMahon talks about summer heat relief hours and other ways St. Vincent de Paul is helping provide a respite from the heat. Mark Henle/azcentral.com
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Arizona is opening its doors throughout metro Phoenix to those seeking relief from the blistering summer heat.
In previous summers, the organization only provided heat relief during excessive heat warnings, like the upcoming advisory that begins Saturday in south-central Arizona.
The heat warning from the National Weather Service is in place until the middle of next week. Tuesday’s temperatures are expected to hit 120 degrees.
This year, St. Vincent de Paul decided to provide heat relief every day throughout the summer.
“We really want to be a reliable resource,” said Danielle McMahon, director of Food Services for the non-profit agency. “It’s hard when you don’t have a smartphone and you can’t look to see ‘Is it 110 or 105 (degrees)? If I walk all the way there in the heat, will I be met with closed doors?’ “
McMahon said the Phoenix dining room, at 1075 W. Jefferson St., is nearly full every day with people wanting relief from the heat.
The staff and volunteers try to keep their guests entertained with snacks, movies and radios, she said.
Staying positive, despite circumstances
When heat relief is over, the services don’t stop.
Volunteers quickly work to turn the dining hall into a 250-bed shelter to house the homeless for the evening.
That’s where 43-year-old Paul Fox has been staying for the last five months.
Fox said he’s grateful for the staff and volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul.
“It’s a blessing because I know deep down they do care,” Fox said.
Fox said he’s been homeless for two years and spent the first year in California before coming to Arizona.
He was a volunteer at the dining hall several years ago but now finds himself on the other side. Despite his circumstance, Fox said he’s tried to stay positive.
“I know that in the long run things are going to get better and I try to keep focused on that instead of sitting here twiddling my thumbs, wondering what’s going to happen next.”
James Keller, 49, has the same perspective.
This is his second time staying at the shelter, the first time being a three-month stretch five years ago.
He came back to the shelter one month ago, and said he’s thankful for the staff and volunteers who work to help get people like him back on their feet.
“I think that people that do volunteer here, otherwise known as God’s little helpers, without them I don’t think it would be possible,” Keller said.
Keller said he was granted a six-month stay at the facility and is eagerly awaiting hearing about possible Social Security and disability benefits in order to get surgeries to correct his degenerative disc disease and carpal tunnel syndrome.
In the long-term, Keller said, he hopes to move to Flagstaff to experience the four seasons that aren’t seen in Phoenix.
“I belong there with the satisfaction of being happy again,” Keller said.
Fox said he wishes society at large would have the same compassion that the staff and volunteers at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul have for the poor and homeless.
“I just wish people would open their hearts more, open their doors more and give us a chance to prove ourselves and say, ‘Hey, we can make a difference if we all come together,’ ” Fox said.
Fox said his dream is to become a chef, and he hopes to get to a place where he can afford going back to school.
Hours and donations
McMahon said the heat-relief program started in May and is scheduled through August, but she added it might be extended to September.
“It might be fall in some places, but we’re still at 100 degrees in September a lot of times,” McMahon said. “We’ll see what happens with the weather, but as needed we’ll fulfill.”
McMahon said the organization depends on donations to be able to provide heat-relief services. Anyone interested in donating can visit the website for more information on how to help.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Arizona is opening its dining rooms during the following times:
Mesa dining room: 67 W. Broadway Road, Mesa.
· Regular meal hours: Brunch: 9:30-11:30 a.m., seven days a week.
· Heat-relief hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 9:30-11:30 a.m. Sunday-Monday.
Sunnyslope dining room: 9227 N. 10th Ave., Phoenix.
· Regular meal hours: Lunch: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner: 4:30-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; weekend dinner: 4:30-5:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
· Heat-relief hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday; noon-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Phoenix dining room: 1075 W. Jackson St., Phoenix.
· Regular meal hours: Breakfast: 7-8 a.m. Monday-Friday; lunch: 11 a.m.-12:45 p.m., seven days a week.
· Heat-relief hours: 1:30-5 p.m., seven days a week
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