Cold temps bring dangerous conditions for the newly homeless

Cold temps bring dangerous conditions for the newly homeless

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The incoming arctic air is bringing dangers along with it, especially for people without homes.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s homeless unit says the couple hundred “chronic homeless” people around the city already know what to do when the temperature drops. The people they’re most concerned about are those that are newly homeless.

IMPD says those used to the homeless lifestyle generally know where to go and can be pretty resourceful when they need to find heat and shelter.

“Most of them, they have established camps and they may have built, like a lean-to or a cabin type,” said IMPD patrolman Philip Smiley. “And they’re pretty resourceful at taking 55-gallon drums, creating a furnace out of that, a wood-burning stove and keeping themselves warm.”

IMPD says there are close to 1,000 newly homeless people during the winter who have no idea where to go or what to do as their health becomes at risk.

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“The recent homeless that are not prepared for it, the mentally ill people that don’t even realize that they’re in a bad way where they’ve already got frostbite or that the conditions are right for those kind of things to occur,” Smiley said. “Those are the ones we’re worried about.”

The first step is to find shelter, and places like Wheeler Mission are a great place to start.

“We want to make sure that our doors and our spaces are open so people who want to come in and don’t want to be out there in that type of weather are able to come in and seek shelter and be warm,” said William Bumphus, director of Wheeler Mission Emergency Shelter Services.

And if they don’t find shelter, IMPD’s five-person homeless unit will be out full-time looking for people to get them access to resources they need.

“We’re looking for people that we don’t know, looking for people that aren’t dressed appropriately and visiting camps, because they’ll show up in camps trying to figure out ‘Where should I go? What should I do?’ and we’re actively seeking those kind of people out,” Smiley said.

If you are looking for ways to help, IMPD accepts donations to their roll call sites, and Wheeler Mission accepts donations as well.

“We really need coats, hats, socks, no steel-toe boots, those are rough, and gloves,” Smiley said.

“We always need donations because as soon as those donations come in, those donations also go right back out,” Bumphus added.

IMPD says if you do want to donate, please don’t donate food or things like wall decorations. They either become a home for insects and critters, or a waste of resources to get rid of.