Freezing temps threaten homeless

INDIANAPOLIS - It's been cold in Indiana this January, and nobody has felt it more than the state's homeless population.

At homeless shelters in Indianapolis, people stand shoulder to shoulder, wall to wall. Even the most hardcore street people have come in out of the cold as shelters like Wheeler Mission face their most challenging winter in more than two decades.

"We’re serving, on average, more than 1,000 meals a day," said Wheeler's Steve Kerr. "We've got women and children sleeping on the floors. But, again, at least they're safe."

To ensure the safety of those living on the streets, the city has checked homeless camps as many as three times a day. While many homeless residents have deserted the camps for warmer shelters, there remain a hardened few who will not leave the streets no matter how cold it gets.

"I don't care," one homeless camp resident told RTV6. "I'll die as I came in: Cold and broke."

The Indianapolis Division of Homeland Security has coordinated with hospitals, shelters, outreach workers and IMPD officers, all working to get the homeless off the streets. It has activated an emergency shelter should the need arise when temperatures hit well below zero next week.

"We're watching it very closely to monitor it, to make sure they don't become frostbit. They could die very easily in these types of temperatures," said Indy DHS Chief Gary Coons.

Indianapolis police did report at least one homeless fatality from subzero temperatures earlier this year, when it dropped below -15 degrees in the city.

DHS officials are urging family members and neighbors to check on the elderly. Their cold weather plan also has a contingency for animal care and control for people who would be reluctant to seek shelter without their pets. 

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