Monday, June 28, 2021

How you can help The Bowery Mission protect New Yorkers from summer heat

Article by Mackenna Caughron
Photos by Gabe Desanti

While residents are turning on their air conditioners and sharpening their social skills this summer, the season presents challenging circumstances for a subset of our population: New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. 

In the past year, we have gained a newfound appreciation for social interaction, yearning for in-person experiences. But we may have underappreciated another basic resource — hygiene care.

For New Yorkers living on the streets, summer represents equal or greater health risks than chilling winter, a dangerous counterpart that may come as a surprise. 

In cooler months, trips outside immediately elicit thoughts of those shivering without a proper jacket. But summer is the season where the absence of a cool space, a bathroom, a shower can chip away at a person's humanity — or even lead to a health emergency.

In New York City, public bathrooms are scarce and have limited operating hours. To address this problem affecting thousands, funding requires specific authorization. The limits and scarcity of our bathrooms represent a tangled problem experienced by thousands of New Yorkers, who face an increased risk of dehydration, heatstroke, rashes, infections, blisters and respiratory stress as temperatures rise. 

Thankfully, local organizations like The Bowery Mission serve our New York neighbors most impacted by the heat and hygiene crisis. The Bowery Mission offers hand-washing stations, cold water, public restrooms, and cool indoor seating across two campuses in lower Manhattan. 

At the Mission's Bowery Campus at 227 Bowery, a full shower and clothing program is available on Tuesdays (for men and women), Wednesdays (men) and Fridays (men), with sign-up taking place at 6:45 a.m. on the day of the program. Each person receives hygiene items and a full set of clean clothing.

The Mission and its agency partners rely on community support to provide these services. Donated hygiene care items — such as body wash, razors, shaving cream, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo, nail clippers and mouthwash — are needed in copious quantities and are often under-donated (see a full list of needed items here). 

The Mission also needs volunteers to help organize the clothing room (sign up here), which now requires new men's underwear and undershirts.
Action begins with awareness, even as New York City headlines center on re-openings and political races. Noticing the impact of scorching heat on our neighbors and the anonymity and dehumanization it may bring begins with empathy. If a person appears to be suffering, then the offer of a cool water bottle can go a long way. 

Mackenna Caughron works as a consultant, though her passions include writing, photography, and advocacy. You can find more of her writing on and reach her at

Previously on EV Grieve:

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