BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — In mid-January, city leaders in Bloomington began removing homeless tents from a local park. It sparked controversy at the time, and now those people need a place to escape the bitter cold. A local homeless organization is answering the call.
“We ended up feeling like there was a need that we needed to meet,” explains Forrest Gilmore, Executive Director of the homeless and poverty assistance organization Beacon Inc., “The hardest part is finding a location where you can do something like this, finding a location where you can shelter people.”
About a month ago Beacon turned an old cross-fit gym in Switchyard Park into an overnight shelter. During the recent extreme cold spell, they have been averaging 50 people a night, but at times close to 70.
“It’s nicer to be able to go home, but if you don’t have a home, at least you got someplace warm,” explains James Gallagher who has been staying at the shelter and works in the kitchen at one of Beacon’s other shelters in town, “Two of my oldest boys got laid off, so I have been paying their bills and all that. Luckily, I am fortunate to have a job here. Still trying to work on getting a place.”
Beacon is doing their best to maintain COVID-19 and social distancing standards but says sometimes it’s about finding solutions to the biggest threat. Right now, that’s the cold.
“This works, it’s a 4000 square foot open area basically where we can throw out a lot of cots,” explains Gilmore, “Pizza X comes in and brings us pizza once a week, a lot of generosity out there.”
The shelter opens up to folks at 9 pm at night and is just an overnight location. Beacon does have other shelters open for people during different times of the day.