July 8, 2024

Local businesses set up community water stations in the face of extreme heat

The new community partnership is an effort to keep unhoused Tucsonans safe.

community water 1 A free water station outside of the Arizona Poppy shop on South Fourth Avenue in Tucson, Ariz.
Rosie Crocker

A number of local businesses intend to make sure Tucson’s unhoused population stays hydrated in triple digit temperatures this summer.

Pima County recorded 16 heat related deaths in June, three more than June 2023. In an effort to reduce those numbers, the City of Tucson is running 15 cooling centers this summer.

But activists and business owners like Shannon Riggs, the co-owner of Pop Cycle on Fourth Avenue, said there’s quite a few gaps. Mainly, cooling centers close in the early evening, and aren’t open weekends or holidays.

“It doesn’t get dark until 7, 7:30, and actually the hottest time of day is usually around 4 or 5 in the afternoon,” she said.

The Fourth Avenue Coalition and Arizona Poppy are the first local businesses to install free water stations outside their shops as part of a new community effort. The mutual aid groups Gator-Aid and Community Care Tucson started the project last month and are looking to get more businesses involved.

Rosie Crocker, owner of Arizona Poppy, said she also thinks the cooling centers are not enough.

“I feel like it's almost another band aid solution to having their needs met in real ways,” she said.

Riggs said the program is more than just homeless outreach, and community hydration is part of adapting to climate change.

“It’s not just for unhoused people. If you’re someone that needs to take the bus, or rides your bike, or doesn't have a car, it’s the reality of climate change that we’re gonna need to create cooler spaces for people to be in, who need to be outside. A lot of us are fortunate to be able to go straight from our air conditioned office to our air conditioned car to our air conditioned house, but there’s a lot of people who aren’t that fortunate,” she said.

Water stations on Fourth Avenue are now located at the Arizona Poppy shop at 150 S 4th Ave, and the Fourth Ave Coalition space, 311 E 7th St.

MORE: Housing, News, Tucson
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