This article was originally published in full in GOVERNING.
here’s no escaping the summer heat in Phoenix. To help alleviate the blistering temperatures, the city — like many others — has long provided heat-relief services, such as cooling centers, to help residents who have nowhere else to turn. But recently, the city has stepped up those efforts, largely by tapping an overlooked resource: volunteers from the community.
Local residents are a big part of the city’s “We’re Cool” effort to spread the word about cooling and hydration centers in city libraries, senior centers and churches. They’re also planting trees to provide shade, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods where residents without cars must wait at bus stops or walk to do errands. And the local volunteers are even helping city officials decide where those trees — and other heat-shielding resources — should go.