Outreach teams helping homeless as temperatures continue to dip

An IMPD officer checks on Teresa Williams as she struggles through her first winter on the streets of downtown Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Community outreach teams distributed warming kits Saturday morning to the city’s homeless in an effort to prevent the brutal cold from turning deadly.

IMPD officers handed out wool blankets, hats, gloves and hand warmers in collaboration with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the Office of Public Health of Safety, Eskenazi Health, IU Health and more than 20 other local agencies, including volunteers collectively known as the “Professional Blended Street Outreach Team.”

The emergency winter mission began at Monument Circle, where homeless men and women could be seen struggling to stay warm underneath tarps and makeshift tents.

Volunteers approached them as the sun came up, checking for signs of frostbite and hypothermia, handing out warming kits and offering transportation to safer locations.

Passersby watched in surprise as limbs – and smiling faces – emerged from what appeared to be piles of discarded rags and cardboard.

“I didn’t even realize there were people sleeping there,” one man said. “You kind of forget they’re out here.”

Members of the homeless population sometimes described as “invisible” are at the highest risk of hypothermia, frostbite and cold-related death as temperatures continue to dip, officials said.

Outreach teams quickly moved from Monument Circle to less visible, lower traffic areas downtown known to be frequented by the city’s homeless, including a parking lot near Illinois and 9th Streets, spots along the White River and other locations mentioned by residents in emails and Facebook messages.

An officer pulled over when he saw Teresa Williams shivering in the snow on the side of the road near West and McCarty Streets.

Williams has been homeless since April, she told WISH-TV, and spends her nights in a tent near the river.

“They’re so good to me,” she said of the outreach teams as an officer unpacked a warming kit for her. “All I can say is thank you.”

Anyone with information about the needy and homeless in Indianapolis can contact IMPD on Facebook or at the following link: INDY.GOV