Organizations work to provide resources, shelter for those experiencing homelessness in Indianapolis

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INDIANAPOLIS — As it gets colder many people are looking to provide resources and shelter to those experiencing homelessness.  

A local church is doing a drive to collect socks and soaps for local shelters. 

They’ve already made some deliveries, but there is still time to get involved. The SOS Drive is collecting items until the end of the year. If you’re interested in donating, click here

The drive has been going for about nine years. It started with the Wheeler Mission but has since expanded to give to more.  

Recently they delivered around 20,000 pairs of socks and 15,000 bars of soap to the Damien Center. 

One of the organizers says it’s important to give and help others all year round, but especially as it gets colder. 

“Someone that’s experiencing homelessness and is on the street day and night… they need the socks. They wear through the socks. They’re walking around all day long,” said Jim Tomlinson with the SOS Drive. 

“Well, we’ve strategically given the donations to organizations that can also distribute them to those in need. So Wheeler Mission, the Damion Center, these programs that are currently in place are also going to donate to other organizations that are in need of socks and soap.” 

The director of the Wheeler Mission Men’s Residential Center Brandon Andrews says that those donations whether big or small are extremely important to their day-to-day operations. 

Andrews says socks are one of the most needed items in shelters and soap is one of the basic toiletries they provide. 

The Wheeler Mission is also part of a network of hundreds of organizations that care for people in need. 

They have also partnered with the city to provide extra winter contingency shelters… enough for people to spread out and socially distance. 

“So, as the colder months start coming in, if people don’t have access to care, they can get extremely… They can get frostbitten. They could literally die. And so, we want to make sure service are available for every man, woman, and child that needs it in the city of Indianapolis,” said Andrews. 

Andrews says there are also other ways to help like volunteering at one of the shelters or service providers. 

The city is also working to provide additional resources to those without homes. There are traditional service providers like Wheeler Mission and Horizon House who offer shelter. The city’s Office of Public Health and safety are also working to provide housing and rental assistance. 

“If you are donating, I encourage you to donate to one of our service providers here in the city, either at the Horizon House or Wheeler Mission,” said Administrator for Homelessness and Eviction Prevention for the Office of Public Health and Safety Andrew Merkley. 

“They really understand what the needs are of this community, and they work with them daily. So they already have relationships built with this community. And I think it’s really important that donations go to them.” 

Due to the pandemic, there has been an increase for those in need. But there has also been an increase in funding available to help thanks to CARES Act and American Rescue Plan dollars.  

The city established a collaboration to provide rapid rental assistance to connect households to new homes. They were also able to rent hotel space and even convert a former IPS school to provide additional beds for shelter. 

“So, you know, we’ve seen a direct impact. A positive impact from utilizing these non-congregate sheltering methods and being able to connect people to services, and get them into housing more quickly. We house far and above the number of people that Indianapolis typically houses in a non-COVID year,” Merkley said.  

Merkley also spoke about homeless encampments around the city, specifically, one at MLK and 65 and another at Shelby and 65. He says those are actually on state property, so INDOT and IMPD are working with homeless outreach providers to get the people there connected to housing and close those camps. 

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