Extreme heat gravely affects marginalized South Floridians (includes video story)

As the summer months approach, the heat has become an increasing burden for marginalized communities and those who work long hours outdoors.

Under the relentless sun this week, Juan Thezan, a 50-year-old landscaper, was trimming the bushes outside the downtown federal courthouse with a big hedge trimmer.

Juan Thezan trimming bushes (Layan Abu Tarboush/Caplin News)

Thezan works seven hours a day outside. “I’m used to it,” he laughed cheerfully. “I’ve been keeping the county clean for four years now.”

The landscaper leaves the house every day with a bright long sleeve shirt and a supply of iced water packed in his work truck. As soon as he gets home, he takes a cold shower to cool off.

As temperatures soar, Miamians are seeking refuge from the scorching heat by flocking to local cooling centres like the main library downtown.

Michael Gilbert, a 66-year-old seeking sanctuary from the blazing heat, found solace in the library’s air-conditioned haven.

Michael Gilbert inside a downtown Miami library (Layan Abu Tarboush/Caplin News)

Gilbert said he goes to the government center every morning before the library opens. Then, he stays in the stacks from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. reading novels.

“I come here every day, and I keep wiping the sweat off because the elevator by the government center is busted again, and I don’t like walking up the stairs in the bright sun,” Gilbert said. “The library is nice and air-conditioned.” 

When it gets dark outside, the 66-year-old finds it incredibly challenging to doze off because of the heat.

“Going to sleep is very hard. I look forward to a breeze or something,” he said. “Last night a guy gave me a frozen bottle of water and it melted a little and I used that to cool off. I think it made me sleep after that.”

As South Florida’s heat rises, it’s vital to stay hydrated and take precautions. Many in Miami-Dade are hospitalized each year for health issues triggered by hot weather like heat stroke, exhaustion and dehydration.

Tadaski Moore, 52, was sweating outside as he ate a sandwich on his lunch break. The union electrician works at a construction site near the federal courthouse.

“We’re trained to cope with the heat, whether it’s heat stress or strokes,” he explained. “You have to stay hydrated and take frequent breaks due to the extreme heat.”

Tadaski Moore outside working (Layan Abu Tarboush/Caplin News)

The Miami Gardens resident described the challenges of working in such an industry. “I’ve witnessed numerous heat-related illnesses, where my colleagues end up fainting, passing out, and experiencing cramps,” Moore said. “When you suffer from a heat illness, it has lifelong effects and causes prolonged stress on your body.”

 As temperatures rises, the impact of the scorching heat on marginalized communities and outdoor workers becomes more apparent. Seeking relief, individuals like Thezan, Gilbert and Moore will rely on cooling centers and their own measures to endure and adapt to the challenging conditions.

Layan Abu Tarboush is a digital broadcasting major at FIU, currently pursuing a minor in International Relations. As an international student from Jordan, Layan is fluent in both Arabic and English and has a deep interest in reporting on Middle Eastern affairs. Layan takes pride in being multicultural with great exposure from the East and West.

Valentina Gaspari is a sophomore majoring in Digital Broadcasting. A bilingual woman who enjoys traveling and covering/editing stories, Gaspari is passionate about working in the news or entertainment field as a reporter or producer after graduation.