In 2021, there were 339 heat-related deaths in Maricopa County, marking a huge increase of roughly 70 percent from 2019, according to The Guardian. When temperatures frequently top 100 degrees, water is essential.
On August 4, Tammy Broselow and Sheena Williams loaded up community refrigerators in downtown Phoenix.
"Water is the most needed and distributed item," Williams says. "It's tough to function without water in your system."
She and Broselow co-founded Tom's Palms, a nonprofit organization named after and inspired by the giving spirit of their fathers, almost five years ago. The organization works to feed and provide necessities to the homeless population, including water.
The laundromat, located at 2418 East Portland Street in central Phoenix, provides cost-effective laundry services and clean clothes for community members.
On May 1, Social Spin connected with Unsheltered Phoenix to create a Heat Relief Program for the summer.
"We are making sure we have our Phoenix location opened up to our neighbors," Social Spin's website says. "We will provide heat relief to our unsheltered neighbors and serve as a drop site for donations."
Nature's Medicines, a dispensary on McDowell Road, provided the nonprofit with a storage space in their parking lot. There, Broselaw meets with food and water donors every Thursday morning.
"We then provide our volunteers with cases of water and food, and our volunteers give the stuff out on the street and in the community refrigerators," Broselaw says.
Some volunteers are drivers for Lyft and Uber, and they pick up and drop off water and groceries at fridges between gigs. Regardless of occupation, Broselaw is always looking for more volunteers.
At the concert, Williams networked with artists Lil' Flip, MIMS, and Twista. Williams spoke with Twista after he performed his 2004 hit "Slow Jamz."
"I gave him a hug and our Tom's Palms business card," she says. "I'm here to let everyone know about what we do. Lil' Flip might come out to one of our events."
Part of spreading that word includes education. Williams works to inform do-gooders who leave leftovers in the community fridges.
"To protect our volunteers, Tom's Palms helps educate our helping hands with local procedures and laws in place. It is not legal to give home-prepared food to an unsheltered person," she says, explaining the need for a food handlers license. "You can, however, without a food handlers license, hand out licensed-kitchen prepared food, produce, and perishable items."
Those items can also be placed in any of the community fridges that Phoenix and Tempe have through the Heat Relief Network.
"There's another one on 1332 East Taylor Street in the Garfield neighborhood," Broselow adds.
We visited two additional community refrigerators last month, which were posted on the Feed Phoenix Instagram page. One was in front of a house on West Wethersfield Road in North Phoenix. The fridge and freezer were packed with both food and water.
Broselow estimates the true number is over 10,000.
"We need more water bottles, food, and volunteers for our unsheltered [people]," she says.
Community fridges placed at homes and businesses in publicly accessible areas are one place to start.