Warming centers a welcoming spot in bitter cold

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The bitter cold weather has everyone bundling up. But what about those who battle the weather to do their jobs or those who have no place warm to go?

Thursday, several cities around central Indiana opened fire stations, and other buildings to the public as warming centers — including three Salvation Army sites around Indianapolis.

The warming centers offer not only a chance to get in out of the cold, but a hot meal, coffee and even hats, gloves and coats for those without.

That’s why warming centers such as the ones the Salvation Army are offering are a welcome spot for many.

“Whenever it gets below zero and the wind chill is down there below 10 below and 15 below we really need to be here just available,” said Becky Roberson, with the Salvation Army. “Because some people don’t realize how cold it is until they get out and then they’re stuck so they need to have some place to come in and warm up and then go the rest of their journey.”

But for those who call the street home, a place to get in out of frigid weather, is also needed. Wednesday the city opened a shelter at Horizon House — which typically doesn’t function in that capacity — working with IMPD and IEMS to bring 32 people in out of the cold. They expect even more to take advantage of the shelter on a frigid Thursday night with space for up to 80.

“This is some place they can bring them as an alternative to arresting them to keep them alive,” said Julie Fidler with the Department of Metropolitan Development. “It’s absolutely dangerously cold out there for our folks.”

But some, she said, refuse the help.

“There are some folks who just, no matter what, will not access and we try everything we can through our access partners to get them to come in,” Fidler said. “We had a gentleman who refused last night and so they went. We have several outreach teams staggered throughout the day and evening, and they did go and check on him and at last count this morning I knew that he was OK.”

For others, like Pauline, who depends on Meals on Wheels, knowing volunteers care enough about her welfare to show up no matter the conditions outside, means so much.

“It’s a blessing from God, you know, that he’s looking out for older people like us that’s not able to get around and do for ourselves,” she said. “And when you see somebody reach in there and say ‘How you feeling?’ and say one or two words – it makes you feel good.”

For Meals on Wheels volunteer, Christa Bowman, who has delivered meals for the agency for 20 years, it’s a chance to make sure all is well with those she helps when the thermometer dips below zero.

“Just to check and make sure they are OK and they have the heat on and are able to get up and get the meal,” Bowman said. “And to just see how they are doing health wise.”

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