SOMERVILLE – Six Somerville organizations received “Keep Cool Somerville” grants to pilot projects improving resilience to extreme heat this summer.
Keep Cool Somerville, a partnership between the City of Somerville and Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), invited groups to propose small-scale projects to address the health impacts of climate-driven heat.
The 2021 Keep Cool Somerville grantees are:
· Bent/Haus Arts – Bent/Haus Arts is hosting “Mystery Machine,” a free, interactive outdoor cooling art installation that incorporates music, mist, and colorful animations that are refracted and reflected in the mist. Installation events are planned for Friday, August 20, in partnership with Groundwork Somerville, and Saturday, August 28, from 8 to 9:30 p.m. at Chuckie Harris Park. allisontanenhaus.com/benthaus
· Clarendon Hill Towers – Clarendon Hill Towers Resident Services is distributing fans to older adult building residents this summer. Heat health safety information is being shared with all other residents. clarendonhill.org
· Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) – CAAS is connecting eligible households to discounted utility and low-income energy programs to help overcome cost barriers associated with home cooling this summer. The agency is also distributing air conditioning units to individuals at greater risk of experiencing heat health risks. caasomerville.org
· Groundwork Somerville – The Groundwork Green Team will integrate heat health outreach and education with an outdoor shading installation. The team is partnering with local artists on temporary, structural shading features. groundworksomerville.org
· Somerville Fresco! – This Spanish-speaking resident group is conducting community outreach on heat health and developing bilingual booklets with tips, recipes, and information to help families in Somerville find ways to keep cool this summer. They are also distributing cooling kits containing the booklets, water bottles, and small coolers.
· Somerville Housing Authority – The Housing Authority is piloting an air conditioner lending program to distribute and install air conditioning units in its buildings. The lending program complements other Housing Authority community cooling efforts, including distribution of Keep Cool Toolkits to all households. sha-web.org
“We’re excited to support community organizations that are educating Somerville residents about extreme heat, helping them access cooling systems and pay for utilities, and incorporating art with outdoor cooling installations,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “With more extreme weather, we will need to look to short-term solutions like these projects to keep residents safe, as well as longer-term solutions that address climate change – the root cause of our increasingly hot summers.”
“Last summer was among the hottest on record, and this summer we’ve already experienced long stretches of days over 90 degrees,” said MAPC Public Health and Climate Planner Jeanette Pantoja. “These grants will help Somerville residents and institutions proactively prepare for increasingly hot summers.”
In 2020, Keep Cool Somerville conducted stakeholder interviews, resident focus groups, a public survey, and a PhotoVoice project to understand how extreme heat affects Somerville residents. This research informed a Cooling Strategies Toolkit, which outlines evidence-based and community-supported strategies for long-term summer heat preparedness. Grantees used this toolkit to propose project ideas and interventions.
The initiative is advised by the Keep Cool Advisory Committee, an interdisciplinary group of city staff and community representatives, and is supported by a grant from the MAPC Accelerating Climate Resiliency Grant Program. For more information on Keep Cool Somerville and the grants, visit mapc.org/keep-cool-somerville.
These photos are from the fan distribution event at Clarendon Hill Towers on August 3. Photos may be used with attribution to Yetsenaria “Jessie” Alvira, Resident Services Coordinator at Clarendon Hill Towers.