Free places to find air conditioning and stay cool in the heat

As metro tenants prepare for triple-digit temperatures, staying cool remains more difficult for some residents without access to air conditioning. An estimated 8.7% of US households do not have air conditioning, according to US Census data.

In metro Kansas City, less than 2% of households do not have an air conditioning unit. This means that tens of thousands of people live without air conditioning in the metro.

National Weather Service meteorologist Brent Pesel said the city is seeing a slight increase in temperatures from previous years in Kansas City. This week, temperatures will hit 102 degrees, the first time Kansas City has experienced triple-digit temperatures since 2018, according to Pesel.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when temperatures get so high, fans are no longer of any help. The best way to avoid heat-related illnesses is to find an air-conditioned place to cool off.

Despite the string of high temperatures, homeowners in Kansas and Missouri are not obligated to provide residents with air conditioning. In 2020, the Kansas City Council passed the Tenants’ Bill of Rights, which states that rental units must be heated, but does not guarantee the right to air conditioning. In Kansas, it’s the same. Owners must provide heat but do not need to provide cooling.

Earlier this month, nearly 100 residents of a Kansas City apartment complex went almost two weeks without air conditioning, just after the Kansas City Health Department asked the building owner to install air conditioning units, KMBC News reported.

Not only were residents reeling from the heat, but many feared that once the air conditioners turned on, it would drive up their electricity bills, according to the report.

Here are places in Kansas City to seek help if your air conditioning is broken or you don’t have one.

How the city can help

One resource for residents struggling to access fresh air in their homes is the Kansas City Health Department’s Healthy Home Inspection Program. If the heat in your apartment is unbearable or you think more could be done to cool your building or unit, you can call the Healthy Rental Homes Program for an inspection.

KCMO Health Department Deputy Director Naser Jouhari said his team had been receiving more and more complaints from residents who were experiencing heating problems in their apartments.

People can file a complaint by calling 311 or by dialing 816-513-6357. Once at the health department, a member of staff will ensure that the resident has been in contact with their landlord.

If the landlord is not helpful, the health department will send a staff member to inspect the unit or building within 24 hours, according to Jouhari. Based on what the staff member finds, the health department will arrange a corrective action plan for the owner to help resolve the issue.

Solutions may include asking the landlord to fix existing equipment in a unit to ensure there is fresh air available or even giving a tenant a voucher to help evacuate heat in a hotel if his house is too hot, according to Jouhari.

Have you worked with the Healthy Homes Inspection program before? If so, please email us at [email protected] and tell us about your experience.

Cooling centers

If you need short-term help, you can also spend the day at one of the Metro’s many cooling centers. Ten of the city’s community centers will be open and available as cooling centers during the incoming heat wave.

  • Atchison Family YMCA/Cray Community Center, 321 Commercial St. in Atchison
  • Bonner Springs Family YMCA, 2251 S. 138th St. in Bonner Springs,
  • Cleaver Family YMCA, 7000 Troost Ave. in Kansas City
  • Linwood YMCA/James B. Nutter, Sr. Community Center, 3800 E. Linwood Blvd. in Kansas City
  • North Kansas City YMCA, 1999 Iron St. in North Kansas City
  • Olathe Family YMCA, 21400 W. 153rd St. in Olathe
  • Paul Henson Family YMCA, 4200 W. 79th St. in Prairie Village
  • Platte County Community Center South, 8875 Clark Ave. in Parkville
  • Platte County Community Center North, 3101 Running Horse Road in Platte City,
  • Providence YMCA/Ball Family Center, 8601 Parallel Parkway in Kansas City, Kansas
  • Red Bridge Family YMCA, 11300 Holmes Road Kansas City

The city also offers refreshment buses on 31st Street and Van Brunt Avenue and Barney Allis Plaza from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Spray parks will also be available. To see a full list of spray parks in the city, click here.

Free air conditioners for people 65 and over

If you or someone you know is 65 or older and needs an air conditioner, the Bishop Sullivan Center’s ElderCool Project may also be helpful. The program has distributed more than 5,000 window air conditioners since its inception in 2000. The program has distributed 95 air conditioners this year alone, according to Bishop Sullivan Center Emergency Assistance Supervisor Shilo Foster.

AC unit
Jerry Cline of Total Heating and Cooling works on an air conditioner in 2011. Travis Heying The Wichita Eagle

The project mainly targets elderly residents in need of refreshment, but it also serves people with respiratory problems. To apply, residents should call 816-561-8515 x113, then an admissions coordinator will do a short interview with the caller. If the caller is 65 or older or has a respiratory disability, they will schedule someone to install an air conditioner for free the next day.

The program also accepts donations. According to the center’s website, a $250 donation will cover an air conditioner as well as delivery and installation to the recipient’s home. Donating $150 will help them pay their electricity bill and offset the cost of running their new air conditioner. Learn more about how to donate here.

Need help paying your energy bill?

For those who need help with their energy bills due to AC use, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is also available. This federal program provides each state with funding to help families reduce the costs of home energy bills, weatherization costs, and home energy-related repairs.

To learn more about how to enroll in the program, you can call the national hotline at 866-674-6327. For Missouri-specific assistance, call 573-526-0677. If you are on the Kansas side, call 785-296-0147.

211 United Way

If the programs mentioned above aren’t helpful but you still need help finding effective ways to stay cool this summer, try calling the United Way 211 Helpline. The Helpline is a 24-hour resource that can connect you with programs and financial assistance that will meet your needs.

You can also search United Way’s resource directory by visiting here.

Robert A. Cronkleton contributed to this story

This story was originally published July 22, 2022 1:12 p.m.

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