NewsPublic Affairs / December 13, 2013

Temperatures And Season Mean Busy Times For Indy Homeless Shelters

Sam Klemet
Temperatures And Season Mean Busy Times For Indy Homeless Shelters

The combination of dropping temperatures and the holiday season often means added stress on Indianapolis’ homeless shelters and outreach programs.

Steve Kerr is the Chief Development Officer of Wheeler Mission, an organization that provides shelter, food, and recovery services for the homeless.

He says on any given night as many as 1,600 people could be living on the streets of Indianapolis, especially now.

"We hire more staff this time of year.  We've got to prepare our buildings to keep them ready for total overflow during the season," said Kerr.  "The hard part for us is our emergency shelter- we have 124 permanent beds and that's it.  And we are sleeping 200 in that building and another 100 in a different facility nearly every night."

But, he says to deal with the increased need; more people are willing to lend a hand.

"Thanksgiving is obviously a huge service day for us (as are) Christmas and Christmas Eve," said Kerr.  "We do just see a huge outpouring of volunteer support during this time of year.  I think people just want to help."

Christy Shepard with the Coalition for Homeless Intervention and Prevention agrees.

She says the organization experiences more volunteerism this time of year due to the holidays and the conditions.

"The weather is always a huge concern," she said.  "This is very critical for people's health to stay warm and get inside, especially those who are homeless."

Shepard says that’s why it’s key to have efficient coordination between community groups.

"We really work hard to ensure that those that provide the services, those that are providing the outreach have a good system behind them," she said.  "As far as, do they have extra needs at this time?  Do they need bottles of water? Do they need to be able to distribute hats and gloves?  How can we get those items to them?"



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