Organizations work to protect homeless in severe cold weather

Linda McCrae, a senior pastor at Central Christian Church in Indianapolis, talks Jan. 4, 2018, about efforts to house homeless people during severe cold weather at the church. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A local church is teaming up with Wheeler Mission Ministries to provide additional shelter space for those in need.

On Thursday night, Central Christian Church in Indianapolis provided 50 beds for the homeless. Their gymnasium became the emergency overflow center for Wheeler Mission.

The senior pastor at Central Christian Church said they stepped up to help after hearing shelters were at capacity.

“It is just heartbreaking. You know, we walk around during the day just shivering and suffering because its so cold and yet there are so many people, hundreds every night, who don’t have a place to sleep,” said Linda McCrae, a senior pastor at the church.

“One thing we can really make a difference in is this weather-related death. We know that just having a place to sleep at night will save lives,” said Alan Witchey, executive director with the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention & Prevention (CHIP).

Homeless population increasing

Witchey said the homeless population in Indianapolis has grown 10 percent over the last year.

He said they have been working with several organizations because the need is there.

“The homeless population has grown significantly. We saw 10 percent growth over last year, and the shelters are full. They really just don’t have enough space so this is really an emergency situation,” Witchey said.

IMPD collecting cold-weather gear

With the temperatures being as low as they are, even the daytime hours can be dangerous for people without a place to stay, so the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is also stepping up to help and collecting cold-weather gear.

“We will go around and hand them out to folks in need,” said Officer Patrick McPherson with IMPD’s Downtown District Homeless Unit.

The department is asking people to donate things such as hats, gloves and socks. They also need boots between the sizes of 9 and 13. McPherson said donations are getting into the hands of those in need within hours.

“We don’t collect them. We get them and we take them and, if we see somebody, we give it to them immediately,” the officer said.

Donations can be dropped off at IMPD’s downtown district office, 39 W Jackson Place, in the Indianapolis Union Station.

More information about the emergency overflow shelters or how you can help volunteer can be found on the CHIP website.