Chicago’s unhoused endure latest heat wave: ‘This is one of the worst’

The Night Ministry, in a van with a nurse practitioner and three staff members, made the rounds on one of the hottest days of the year. They made sure the people who live on the streets had essentials to survive.

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On the second day of a record-breaking heatwave in the Chicago area, Jeffery Holiday, 60, who has lived in a tent on Lower Wacker Drive for about 8 months, receives cold bottled water and free supplies, such as sandwiches and socks, from The Night Ministry’s street medicine van, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.

Jeffery Holiday, 60, who has lived in a tent on Lower Wacker Drive for about eight months, receives cold bottled water and free supplies, such as sandwiches and socks, from the Night Ministry’s street medicine van on Thursday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

On the second day of extreme heat in Chicago, the suffering could be felt among those living on the streets on Lower Wacker Drive.

“It’s bad,” says Jeffery Holiday, 60, from outside a tent in a rare sunny section of Lower Wacker, near Van Buren. “I try to stay hydrated, which is hard to do.”

Last night was so hot, he slept outside of his tent, he said Thursday morning. The day before he “didn’t get up at all” because of the heat. Chicago saw its first 100-degree day since 2012 on Thursday, breaking a record for Aug. 24, according to the National Weather Service.

Holiday was one of several unhoused people visited Thursday morning by the Night Ministry, a Chicago-based social services organization.

The Night Ministry, in a van with a nurse practitioner and three staff members, made the rounds on one of the hottest days of the year. They made sure the people who live on the streets had the essentials: water, turkey and cheese sandwiches, socks, medicine.

“You need some water?” case worker Sylvia Hibbard asked a man walking on Lower Wacker.

On the second day of a record-breaking heatwave in the Chicago area, a man living on Lower Wacker Drive talks with a nurse practitioner (left) and The Night Ministry’s case manager Sylvia Hibbard (right) before receiving cold bottled water from the street medicine van, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. The man asked not to be identified.

On the second day of a record-breaking heat wave in the Chicago area, a man living on Lower Wacker Drive talks with a nurse practitioner (left) and The Night Ministry’s case manager Sylvia Hibbard (right) before receiving cold bottled water from the street medicine van on Thursday. The man asked not to be identified.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Hibbard, a case worker at the Night Ministry for six years, knows most of them by name. “It’s not a good thing,” she said. Some of them have lived here for a decade, she said.

She and her colleagues try to make their visits on Lower Wacker every week at the same time and day. Thursday mornings are best, she said, because it’s when Streets and Sanitation crews make the rounds to trash abandoned tents.

“That’s how we catch the most amount of people,” Hibbard said.

The focus on Thursday was to provide water and check that folks were hydrated.

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No one required medical attention Thursday, said nurse practitioner Hyunsoo Kim, who has been volunteering with the Night Ministry for almost a year. She was looking out for signs of heat stroke: headaches, nausea and vomiting.

On the second day of a record-breaking heatwave in the Chicago area, Dan Rusick, 48, who has been unhoused off-and-on for about 13 years, walks on Lower Wacker Drive to approach The Night Ministry’s street medicine van and receive cold bottled water and free supplies, such as sandwiches and socks, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.

Dan Rusick, 48, who has been unhoused off and on for about 13 years, walks on Lower Wacker Drive to approach the Night Ministry’s street medicine van and receive cold bottled water and free supplies, such as sandwiches and socks, on Thursday. Temperatures hit 100 on Thursday, a new record for Aug. 24 in Chicago.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

“Hydration is important,” Kim said. The heat’s effect can be worsened when combined with drug use or high blood pressure, she said.

Not everyone living on Lower Wacker was disturbed by the heat wave. Some parts of the lower drive were relatively cool compared with conditions above ground.

“It’s no big deal,” said Dan Rusick, 48, who lives outside nearby.

Rusick no longer lives on Lower Wacker — he moved out of a tent last month because the car fumes — but met the Night Ministry team on Lower Wacker after they called him.

He received bottled water and an application to receive his birth certificate. He plans to get a Social Security card.

Rusick has been unhoused on and off for 13 years after losing his home to foreclosure, he said. He had a roommate a few years ago, but after they died during the COVID lockdown, he was evicted and went back to the streets.

On the second day of a record-breaking heatwave in the Chicago area, John Mauna, 51, who has been living on the streets for 5 years, sits on North Michigan Avenue at East Lake Street, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.

John Mauna, 51, who has been living on the streets for five years, said this week’s heat wave “is one of the worst.”

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

After briefly holding down a job at a hotel in the suburbs, he got pneumonia in May and was hospitalized for five weeks, he said.

“And now I’m here,” he said.

Of all the heat waves that John Mauna’s lived through, he says, “This is one of the worst.”

Mauna, 51, sat in a chair on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lake Street, taking care of his 8-week-old kitten, “Minnie Mouse.”

He’s been pouring water on himself and his kitten to keep them cool. He also has a portable fan.

“I’m wetting her,” he says as he lifts the kitten to kiss her.

He’s been unhoused for five years. “I lost everything,” he said of his children, his wife and his home. But then, he said, “I got a cat and wanted to live again.”

On the second day of a record-breaking heatwave in the Chicago area, John Mauna, 51, who has been living on the streets for 5 years, kisses his kitten named “Minnie Mouse” as he sits on North Michigan Avenue at East Lake Street, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.

John Mauna, 51, who has been living on the streets for five years, kisses his kitten named “Minnie Mouse” as he sits on North Michigan Avenue at East Lake Street on Thursday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

On Thursday, the second day of a record-breaking heatwave in the Chicago area, a man living on Lower Wacker Drive receives cold bottled water from The Night Ministry’s street medicine van. The man asked not to be identified.

A man living on Lower Wacker Drive receives cold bottled water from the Night Ministry’s street medicine van. The man asked not to be identified.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A tent for homeless man Jeffery Holiday, sitting outside it, is pictured in Chicago.

Jeffery Holiday, 60, who has lived in a tent on Lower Wacker Drive for about eight months, receives bottled water and free supplies, such as sandwiches and socks, Thursday from the Night Ministry’s street medicine van.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times (file)

Jeffery Holiday, 60, who has lived in a tent on Lower Wacker Drive for about 8 months, receives bottled water and free supplies, such as sandwiches and socks, Thursday from The Night Ministry’s street medicine van.

Jeffery Holiday, 60, receives bottled water and free supplies from the Night Ministry’s street medicine van. Holiday was one of several unhoused people visited Thursday morning by the Chicago-based social services organization.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Dan Rusick, 48, who has been unhoused off and on for about 13 years, approaches The Night Ministry’s street medicine van Thursday on Lower Wacker Drive to receive cold bottled water and free supplies, such as sandwiches and socks.

Dan Rusick, 48, who has been unhoused off and on for about 13 years, approaches The Night Ministry’s street medicine van Thursday on Lower Wacker Drive to receive cold bottled water and free supplies, such as sandwiches and socks.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

On Thursday, the second day of a record-breaking heatwave in the Chicago area, The Night Ministry’s case manager Sylvia Hibbard checks on people living in tents on Lower Wacker Drive.

The Night Ministry’s case manager, Sylvia Hibbard, checks on people living in tents on Lower Wacker Drive on Thursday. She and her colleagues try to make their visits on Lower Wacker every week at the same time and day.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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