Homeless and their pets sheltered before deep freeze

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 27, 2014)– Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Sergeant Bob Hipple poked through a homeless camp on the banks of the White River southwest of downtown Indianapolis.

“Our number one priority is preservation of life,” he said, “so, we’ve got -17 coming, we’re going to be out here to do our best to make sure people stay alive and address other issues later.”

Those other issues could include substance abuse, mental health problems or a stubborn refusal to come in from the cold but this week Hipple and volunteers from several organizations are more worried about keeping the homeless safe than fixing their lives. “We’ll probably hit ten or 12 of the big camps,” said Hipple. “Everyday someone will check them.”

Each day, from dawn until 11 p.m., Metro P.D. or church volunteers will make the rounds to convince the homeless to come in from the cold.

Hipple said one homeless man froze to death in his tent two weeks ago when central Indiana was hit with the first round of sub zero temperatures from the polar vortex.

At Hipple’s side was Rebecca Warren of the Humane Society of Indianapolis who brought dry and canned food for the handful of cats left behind at the camp.

“Unfortunately these people are doing the best that they can to take care of themselves so we try to help them keep the pets that they’ve got with them.”

Warren said the Society’s westside shelter is housing four pets from homeless camps.

“These people won’t leave their animals so people won’t go into housing or won’t go into shelters because they won’t leave their animals behind so by being able to take their animals into this facility, we’re allowing them to keep themselves safe.”

Hoosiers with a warm place to live, but no way to shop for food to keep them healthy, benefit from Meals on Wheels.

Everyday, 40 teams of volunteers deliver 1100 meals to 550 clients at a cost of $6.00.

“They cannot sometimes get out, they are handicapped,” said volunteer Dorota Ghaffari after she made a deliver to a home in Speedway. “And in weather like this its just very difficult for them to go and get groceries and prepare the meal for themselves and this way they know they have one hot meal per day and one cold meal and usually its enough for them to last the entire day.”

During the first cold snap, accompanied by a foot of snow, Meals on Wheels drivers were prohibited from making their deliveries one day as the food is almost as important as the visual check the volunteers do on their clients.

“I can depend on a meal everyday,” said Harriett who has been a Meals on Wheels client for nearly two years, “because you don’t hve to worry about going out and coming back and forth.”