Requests for winter heating help outpace availability

Cold temps, slow economy create perfect storm

INDIANAPOLIS - The demand is huge for help with paying gas and electricity bills this winter.

For Community Action of Greater Indianapolis -- an agency that provides winter energy assistance -- demand has outstripped the supply.

Metro police were called to the agency Monday to calm some hot tempers in this cold weather.

"This is the fourth time I've been here trying to get some assistance," said Valencia Powell. "I get in line, I feel like I'm the seventh person. These people have been here since 5:00 (a.m.)"

The agency has booked energy assistance applications through March, and it can only allow for 10 walk-ins per day between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Cindi Kostic, who had the gas shut off, faces losing her electricity Tuesday.

"I have an electric fireplace and a space heater that I use. I have heat, but if I don't have electricity, I won't have heat," Kostic said.

Since the blizzard and the Christmas holidays, the agency has been deluged with request for assistance. Petitions for help have come from 35,000 people, some of the highest numbers ever.

"Depending how much money is available for us to be able to provide for benefits and administrative support to take the applications, will determine how far we can go," said Stan Bibbs, with the Community Action agency.

For Kostic, the agency didn't go far enough. At thirteenth in line, she was turned away at the door, facing at least a week without gas and electricity.

"I'm upset for all the people who are standing in line, all these people who need help," Kostic said. "They stand up there and take the check and it's all so wonderful. But it's been going on this way for years."

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