“Jenny’s Trailer,” a new mobile cooling center will be making its way to Tempe for the first time this summer, as a heat relief solution to the community’s homeless population.
As triple-digit temperatures approach again, the City of Tempe searches for more innovative solutions for heat relief for the homeless. Tempe already offers heat relief solutions across the city, including heat relief stations located in community centers. But for the first time this summer, it will be bringing a mobile cooling center to Tempe parks.
Jenny’s Trailer is a collaboration project in partnership with Tempe’s Homeless Outreach Prevention Effort (HOPE) and Arizona State University’s Healthy Urban Environments (HUE) initiative.
“Why can’t we serve people where they are? That’s the main goal or idea behind Jenny’s Trailer, to serve people where they are,” said HUE’s project manager, Liza Oz-Golden.
ASU students began to transform an old trailer into a mobile cooling center back in September. The finished trailer functions with sustainable solar powered energy, and is equipped with cold water, wifi, and of course, air conditioning. Additionally, it will provide onsite connections to local housing shelters and medical services.
“The surveys showed that homeless people don’t want to come to cooling centers many times [because] their pets aren’t allowed, they can’t bring their luggage with them, and of course they’re not going to leave that behind them because that’s all they have,” Oz-Golden said.
The project was inspired by Maricopa County’s reported numbers of heat-related deaths, which was 113 individuals in 2021 (MCDPH, 2021).
Additionally, numbers from the 2022 Point-In-Time homeless count indicate an overall increase in homelessness across Arizona.
However, “The city of Tempe was one of the few cities that had a slight decrease in homelessness since the count was done in 2020,” said Jessica Wright, community services manager of homeless solutions for the City of Tempe.
According to Wright there’s been a reported 3% decrease from the most recent Point-In-Time count in Tempe’s homeless population since 2020.
Projects similar to Jenny’s Trailer have already seen success in The Valley. The “Fresh Express Bus” is another Arizona-based project, which converted a metro bus into a mobile fruit and vegetable store. Like Jenny’s Trailer, this project aimed to help low-income families and even homeless people in the Phoenix area.
“The potential is really tremendous; it’s not an expensive cooling center and it serves so many more people than if you just stay in one location,” Oz-Golden said.
If successful this summer, HUE and the City of Tempe hope to expand Jenny’s Trailer so that it can service more people.
“Whenever we have an opportunity to take advantage of partnering, we love to do that so we can try to reach as many folks as possible,” Wright said. “We’re looking at how we can partner that with maybe a mobile shower unit.”
Jenny’s Trailer plans to roll out soon, when Arizona hits summer temperatures.
“I would love to see a fleet of these cooling centers,” Oz-Golden said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to reach out to more people and provide at least temporary relief.”