Local man gets relief from summer heat

August 15, 2008 2:40:10 PM PDT
Houston's summer heat and humidity can be overpowering, as we know all too well. But, a Houston project is keeping folks cool and saving money on their power bills at the same time.It's the dog days of summer, and we're all feeling the heat, but imagine having to walk outside to cool off.

"During the day, [the] hot part of the day, it's cooler outside than it is in the house," William Bennett said.

Bennett's 50-year-old home is falling apart. He has no air conditioning and no money to put it in.

"The door needs to be replaced," he said. "It's all raggedy. It doesn't fit. I'm not able to do what needs to be done. I get Social Security. That's all I have," Bennett said.

Sadly, more than 400 Americans die every year from extreme heat. Most of the victims didn't have air conditioning.

Bennett won't be one of them thanks to crews from Reliant Energy and a group called Rebuilding Together. They've teamed up to install hundreds of free air conditioners around Houston.

"It's awfully hot and it really can become unsafe for seniors," Reliant Energy representative Pat Hammond said. "We recommend they go to a cool place if they're trying to live without air conditioning."

To be eligible for the free air conditioner program and energy saving repairs, you must be a senior citizen on a low income, own your own home, or be disabled.

There aren't enough free air conditioners for everyone in Houston who needs one, but if you or someone you know wants to cool off for a few hours, you can always go to one of nine "Beat the Heat Centers" in town. You can even reserve a free ride.

As for Bennett, he's now cool as a cucumber. Reliant Energy not only installed his new air conditioner, he got a new energy-efficient fridge and new doors to keep the cool air in.

"We're glad we could help," Hammond said.

One very grateful man is doing better now.

"They helped me find something I couldn't have done on my own," Bennett said.

If you think you qualify for the free air conditioner program, you can call Reliant Energy at (713) 497-6666, or contact Rebuilding Together Houston at (713) 228-2890.

To reserve a free ride to a "Beat the Heat Center," call (713) 497-2711.

Or, if you can head there on your own, listed below are the locations:

  • 6719 West Montgomery Road
  • 6402 Market Street
  • 4014 Market Street
  • 9720 Spaulding Street
  • 7037 Capital Street
  • 6400 High Star Drive
  • 4605 Wilmington Street
  • 3611 Ennis Street
  • 170 Heights Boulevard

    "Beat the Heat Centers" offer water, snacks, movies, games for kids, and even lunch.

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