Local organizations prepare to keep people warm, safe during extreme cold

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One local resident knows he may have to sleep on a floor mat Monday night, but he’s not complaining.

“It means not freezing to death, you know,” Anthony Booker said.

Booker is just one of dozens of homeless men choosing to stay warm inside the Wheeler Mission’s Emergency Men’s shelter, rather than spend the night outside.

“That’s why everybody’s coming in because it’s going to be too cold for anybody to stay out there tonight,” said Kenneth Washington, who is also staying inside the shelter Monday .  “I wouldn’t recommend nobody stay out there tonight.”

While the Wheeler Mission normally requires permanent residents to take part in jobs assistance programs, the doors are open to anyone when it gets this cold.

“We have 124 permanent beds,” said Director Steve Kerr.  “Tonight we’ll probably have close to 200, 220 men at this facility and another facility next door.”

The Salvation Army said they expect their Women’s and Children’s shelter to be over capacity this week as well.

Indianapolis Homeland Security Chief Gary Coons told Fox59 that Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers are also doing sweeps in known homeless shelters around the city.

One such area is a so-called “tent city,” which is located along the banks of the White River, near a bridge on Kentucky Avenue.

Many homeless residents were driven away from the tents during recent flooding on the river, and there may not be many seeking shelter there when temperatures dip near zero degrees this week.

Volunteers with Meals on Wheels are also using their daily food deliveries to check on the welfare of their more than 500 clients.  Many of those clients are elderly of disabled.

When the volunteers ring the doorbells, they keep an eye out for any signs of trouble.

“First of all, if they don’t answer the door, that’s a warning sign,” said Meals on Wheels spokesperson Barb Renshaw.  “If they do answer the door but the house seems cold, if it seems like the furnace isn’t working properly, if something seems amiss.”

Any those warning signs would prompt an immediate call to police and the client’s emergency contact.