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Shipping containers repurposed as cooling stations by Tucson housing assistance group

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(TUSCON, Ariz.) — A housing assistance agency in one of the hottest regions in the country has found a sustainable way to provide relief from scorching temperatures.

Two shipping containers that used to sit on the U.S.-Mexico border have been repurposed into cooling stations for residents in Tucson, Arizona, who may not have access to air conditioning – especially homeless communities, ABC Tucson affiliate KGUN reported.

Dubbed ‘COOLtainers’ and located on northern Tucson’s so-called ‘Miracle Mile’ commercial corridor, the air-conditioned stations are solar-powered. One is equipped with cots for napping, while the other has tables and chairs, and also offers snacks and hygiene items, according to officials from Tucson Housing First Program, a city-run program that assists individuals and families facing homelessness.

“Having something like this would have been a game changer,” Erica Dallo, an employee with the Tucson Housing First Program who once was homeless herself, told KGUN. “…There is no relief when you’re out on the streets like that.”

Being able to provide such a critical service to those in need has led to a full-circle moment for Jeannette Garment, another Tucson Housing First Program employee who was formerly homeless, she told KGUN.

“I hope that people take advantage of it and that they can come down here and take a couple of hours off their feet,” she said. “Try to get some rest and see how better their life can be one day.”

The new cooling station joins six that the city already has in operation throughout the city, according to the City of Tucson.

Temperatures in Tucson over the next week are forecast to be in the triple digits, with lows in the 80s. Any prolonged exposure to that kind of heat could induce heat-related illness, especially for medically vulnerable populations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Extreme heat affects disadvantaged communities disproportionately, research shows, due primarily to lack of access to air conditioning or funds to pay the increased utility bills.

Many in the Tucson area don’t have anywhere to go to escape the sweltering temperatures and intense sun, Dallo said. In triple-digit temperatures, cooling centers could be very helpful in preventing heat-illness and fatalities.

“We are aware that there’s a need, especially with this extreme heat we’re supposed to have today,” Allison Chappell, community services manager for housing operations at the Tucson Housing First Program, told KGUN.

The cooling centers are scheduled to operate through Aug. 31, but are not open on Sundays and Mondays due to lack of funding, according to the housing program.

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