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Mobile cooling hub offers relief to those doing it tough

A pilot project run by the University of Sydney will provide respite for people experiencing homelessness during the forecast summer of extreme heat. Located in Ward Park, Surry Hills, the mobile cooling hub will use simple but effective solutions such as misting fans, wet towels, ice packs, and foot baths to keep people cool during the day.

The cooling hub runs entirely on renewable energy and can cater to up to 54 people at a time. As well as shade and evidence-based cooling strategies, the hub will offer food, water, and support to help people access social housing services.

Dr Timothy English is the leader of the university’s Homelessness and Heat Emergency Activation Team (HHEATeam), which runs the cooling hub. English highlights community engagement and consultation as one of the project’s major strengths.

“The hub is being co-designed with people who have lived experience of or are currently experiencing homelessness to ensure it meets the needs of those it aims to assist,” English says. “As such, they are involved in all decision-making processes as part of the project team.”

The consultation process has produced several ideas for services that could improve the cooling hub once it moves beyond the pilot phase.

“These services include physical and mental health assessments by St Vincent’s Hospital mobile health clinic, veterinary services for people’s little companions, entertainment while being cooled – like radio and television – an ablution block for hygiene, food trucks, a mobile laundry service, and security cameras and a security guard to ensure safety,” English says. 

The project uses the newly launched HeatWatch app designed by Dr Federico Tartarini, Affil.AIRAH, to predict extreme heat events and respond accordingly.

Unlike a weather forecast, HeatWatch uses a range of meteorological data – dry bulb temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation – as well as personal inputs to calculate risk. The cooling hub team uses this information to predict how heat events will specifically affect people experiencing homelessness and what mitigation methods will be effective.

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