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IMPD checks on people most at risk during subzero cold snap

IMPD checks on people most at risk during subzero cold snap

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Temperatures in the single digits and colder — with below-zero wind chills — worried the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department about the safety of living on the streets.

“There are about 300 people that we’re concerned about,” said IMPD Officer Phil Smiley.

During the arctic blast that began during the weekend, Smiley has routinely checked on people experiencing homelessness, many of whom are living in established encampments.

He said enough beds exist through homeless outreach organizations to go around for everyone living on the streets. “There is opportunities for everyone to get warm. Those that have mental health issues, or have been victimized in those situations, are usually apprehensive about going inside. Those are the ones that we’re concerned about, and we are seeking out to try and encourage to take those offers and go inside,” Smiley said.

Some people simply choose to tough out the cold in camps for various reasons. “They don’t want to be split up from their loved one, and they don’t want to be split up from their pet,” Smiley said.

IMPD is not the only group checking on people.

I-Team 8 saw a man bring bags of warm weather gear to a camp near the White River under the I-70 overpass. Also, I-Team 8 saw a church group bring meals and hygiene products.

Terry Morris with Kingdom Apostolic Ministries noted that Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “It’s on MLK day; a person who gave his life to serve humanity. Certainly a reminder that we, too, every day, have that opportunity to give back.”

IMPD said it walks a fine line between letting people decide to stay outside and force them to get inside where it’s warm.

Smiley said, “If they are in a mental health crisis, we’re obviously going to make an intervention right then and use our police powers to force that. That’s the last thing we want to do is force them to do that, but normally we have developed a rapport by working with them 365 days a year and when it’s nice outside and we’re still talking to them, that they trust us, that they know we have their best interest, and they’re going to adhere to the advice we’re giving them and seek that shelter when we feel like ‘You’re in some serious danger here and we need to get you inside.’”

IMPD will be continually checking on camps across Marion County through the severe cold to make sure that people are staying warm.