Caring for Native Elders During Summer Fires, Storms, Heat & Outages

Many Native Americans living in living on remote reservations endure Southwest summers that pose higher risks for severe heat, drought, thunderstorms and fires. With subpar housing that lacks adequate utilities (including running water and air conditioning), the increased temperatures make for a brutal summer season for many. This is especially true for Elders, many of whom are less financially or physically capable and face higher risk for heat exhaustion. About 35-85% of those who live on the reservations we serve are jobless, and while communities do their best to gather the supplies to endure potential summer outages and storms, resources quickly diminish. Many families are struggling to make ends meet, let alone have the added amenities so many of us take for granted, like clean drinking water and a cool, insulated home.

On the Navajo Nation, for example, more than 20% of reservation residents do not have running water in their homes. This, combined with increased droughts in the area, has forced local governments to increase prices and limited the amount of water families can take from water-loading stations maintained by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. Water stations can be accessed by those who have water-station access cards. Typically, customers pay $4.59 for 1,000 gallons of potable water, but currently the NTUA is restricting customers to no more than 500 gallons per week to conserve resources.

Families have no choice but to reduce their water intake as droughts continue to threaten their communities. Not to mention, many Elders don’t have the transportation to travel to these water stations and haul the water back to their homes. Fortunately, PWNA aids Elders by distributing summer care packages that are often sponsored by individual donors. The emergency care packages include supplies such as drinking water, food items, clean socks, toiletries, activity books and more to help Elders when the inevitable fire, storm or extreme heat wave occurs.  

We help deliver these emergency summer care packages through Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA), a program of PWNA. They help Elders better withstand the drastic summers and outages in the desert. This year has been especially challenging given the continued need for COVID-19 support in some communities, but we hope to distribute nearly 500 summer care packages to the Elders. We’re grateful to those who generously donate for this important care and help us in our mission to improve quality of life for Native Americans. Click here if you’d like to sponsor a summer care package to help an Elder.

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