Homeless seek shelter from scorching summer heat

July 21, 2014 /

The Galilee Center in Mecca Calif. offers cooling centers, equipped with air conditioning and televisions, for homeless or underprivileged people to escape summer heat.

The Galilee Center in Mecca Calif. offers cooling centers, equipped with air conditioning and televisions, for homeless or underprivileged people to escape summer heat. Photo: IVAN VALENZUELA/Coachella Uninc



Mecca ­— Eastern Coachella Valley residents are used to the intense summer heat, and tourists are often warned to stay hydrated. But for homeless and low-income families in the valley, the high temperatures can prove to be especially dangerous.

Martha’s Village & Kitchen in Indio tries to provide a safe place for its clients to take refugee. The organization provides rooms, known as cooling centers, where clients can sit and watch movies on a television and enjoy the air conditioning that runs throughout the building.

“We recognize how hot it is for people who don’t have shelter. It can be really uncomfortable and physically dangerous for them. Most of our clients rely on bus transportation. Walking to and waiting for the bus, it’s a challenge,” Carl Wolter, director of programs for Martha’s Village, said.

Martha’s Village and Kitchen shelters over 300 people throughout the year and provides 120 beds at a time. Showers are provided every Friday, and even if a person doesn’t stay at the shelter, meals are available every day at eleven.

Unlike Martha’s Village & Kitchen, that serves as a transitional program to help homeless people find permanent housing, the Galilee Center in Mecca, Calif. focuses specifically on helping low-income families in the east valley.

“These are people who are already working,” Gloria Gomez said. Gomez, along with Claudia Castorena started the center in 2010, twenty years after they co-founded Martha’s Village and Kitchen.

“Sometimes if they don’t go to work on a certain day, because it was raining or the particular week was too hot, they’ll need some help to provide for their families,” Gomez said. “It’s a bit different [from Martha’s].”

The center provides services from canned food, diapers, baby formula, and medical help on a weekly basis, and the center gives seniors rent and utility assistance once a year. And like Martha’s Village and Kitchen, the Galilee Center maintains a cooling center with a TV and air conditioning.

The organization also runs a thrift store that sells clothing and hardware. The store not only provides aide to low-income families in the east valley, but the store has also become a place where farm laborers are able to find summertime necessities. The center will often supply farm workers with long-sleeve shirts and direct seasonal workers to places where they can find temporary shelter.

Gomez and Castorena said they have received positive feedback from the community during the four years the Galilee Center has been in operation. Most of the donations and volunteers for the Galilee Center come from the east valley community and Desert Mirage High School in Thermal, Calif. The center also welcomes student-volunteers through the Pre-Apprenticeship program — local high school students can spend over 500 hours volunteering at the center. Sometimes even the center’s clients will volunteer.

“There was one senior who was in his seventies who came to us and said ‘No, I don’t want my food. I want to help first.’ He can barely walk, but he never gets his food until after he’s done helping out,” Gomez said.

To make a donation or volunteer at Martha’s Village & Kitchen during the summer months, visit marthasvillage.org or call (760) 347-4741.To make a donation or volunteer at the Galilee Center, visit galileecenter.org or call (760) 396-9100.