During the summer in Phoenix, temperatures climb into the triple digits for weeks on end – putting the city’s homeless population at risk for dehydration, heat-related illness or even death.
To help address this problem, the Student Nurses Association (SNA) at Chamberlain’s Phoenix campus put together the fifth annual Hydration for the Homeless event on September 14th, 2013.
For weeks beforehand, member of the SNA collected donations from businesses and individuals, amassing 20 cases of water, 15 cases of granola bars and other snacks, and 20 pairs of flip flops.
Then, on the day of the event, a group of 25 students loaded up two trucks with the donations and drove to an area in downtown Phoenix that has a large homeless population. Students walked and drove around, distributing water and snacks to anyone who needed it. They gave the rest to a community center that works with the homeless.
“It was disheartening to see so many people who were homeless,” said Kaylen Vandersloot, president of the SNA. “But it was also inspiring to see people banding together to help, and those that we helped seemed really appreciative.”
Hydration for the Homeless was founded in 2009 by Claire French, a Chamberlain student who learned about the challenges of homelessness in Phoenix during a psych clinical rotation.
Her patient was homeless, and described how difficult it was to sleep through the hot summer months in Arizona. The pavement never cooled down, and would burn you even in the middle of the night, he said. French recognized that the intense heat could also have an effect on the man’s medications.
“Patients on psych meds dehydrate much faster, and the effects of their psych meds can be impacted by dehydration,” said French, a member of the Class of 2010. “It just struck me that this was a really good cause to become involved with.”
French rallied her Chamberlain College of Nursing classmates, and together they collected 2,200 bottles of water that first year. As the event evolved year after year, the types of donations have also expanded.
Vandersloot explained that the needs of the homeless go beyond just food and water. Some homeless people are also diabetic, and wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause dangerous foot ulcers to develop. Students distributed flip-flops to help address those concerns.
French, now an emergency nurse at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, said she is thrilled that students have continued to embrace the cause.
“It’s amazing that we’re able to meet a need that is so vital,” French said. “It’s an opportunity to serve the community and that’s what being a nurse is all about.”