When sub zero wind chill temperatures strike Indianapolis, our goal is to make sure that all people experiencing homelessness have a warm place to spend the night. On Sunday & Monday, January 17th & 18th, IN Homeland Security asked us to be an emergency overflow shelter for the third year. Immediately, outreach workers hit the streets finding neighbors in the elements and bringing them to Horizon House. On Sunday night, 44 neighbors spent the night; on Monday night there were 68 people. The IMPD Homeless Unit stayed as well. In addition, our Director of Programs, Leslie Kelly and Executive Director, Teresa Wessel stayed both nights.
Why do we do it? It’s the right thing to do. Neighbors who come here when we are an emergency shelter are some of the most vulnerable members of our community. While we do not have designated funding coming to us to cover our resources or personnel time, we still wanted to fill this role. During this time, we did utilize much of our regular supplies. We now are in need of decaf coffee, paper products, plastic utensils, napkins, cups, etc. However, if we did not open as an overnight, our worry would be what would happen to these individuals.
Practicing hospitality – Teresa and other staff would start making hot oatmeal at 6:00am so overnight guests and those entering first thing in the morning would have a warm meal. Neighbors pitched in to set up and tear down cots, pull trash, launder bedding and more. Employees worked to manage the large number of neighbors who were with us throughout the day. We wanted neighbors to be safe, warm and cared for to the best of our ability.
Although it was hard work, it personally was very rewarding. During a crisis, there are little things that shine through and make an impact. A friendly, "Hello, how are you?" goes a long way. Some neighbors do not have this simple interaction on a regular basis. One neighbor responded he was fine but started to tear up that we even asked how he was doing. Many neighbors came back to the kitchen to thank us for serving them. As a seasoned social worker, Leslie patiently cared for neighbors in need. One woman came in with frost bite on her hands/feet and could not move them. To help warm her up, Leslie kindly helped her get to the showers. While working in the kitchen, neighbors would ask what volunteer group we were with. They would be surprised to find out that it was the Director team.
In short, thank you to all our staff, board and volunteers who went above and beyond during these days. You made a difference for some of our most vulnerable community members. We are very happy we could serve this role for our neighbors.