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Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana looking for shelter space before winter

Many cots with pillows and blankets are situated in a room. It's a setup for unhoused residents who need shelter during extremely cold weather.
Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana
The Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana is looking for a space to hold its White Flag emergency shelter this winter.

An organization that serves unhoused people in Southern Indiana is looking for space, preferably in Clark or Floyd County, for a seasonal emergency shelter ahead of the coldest months of the year.

The Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana first opened its White Flag shelter in 2016. Director Leslea Townsend Cronin said it’s been a yearly struggle to secure a location for the season.

The temporary shelter is open from mid-November to mid-April on nights when temperatures are expected to be at or below 35 degrees overnight.

Townsend Cronin said it’s a crucial service for people who don’t have a warm, safe place to stay during extreme weather.

“People will and have died on the streets from the cold,” she said. “If there is not a place for people to go, we run the risk of having the death of people…whether its people who are living in camps, people who are elderly who can’t pay the utilities or a family on the side of the road who doesn’t know where to go.”

But as the colder weather approaches, the Homeless Coalition doesn’t yet know where they can shelter people during bitter cold. Townsend Cronin said she’s hoping for a donated space but that the coalition would consider leasing. Ultimately, they hope to find a space to purchase to provide continuous shelter without a scramble every year.

“If we don't find something we don't open. That's just the bottom line,” she said. “We lease a space for office spaces right now, we don't have the capacity to have people stay there. And so we need a place large enough to potentially house 60 people with 60 cots.”

Townsend Cronin said about 40 people a night use the shelter in December and January. When it gets really cold, like last winter when temperatures fell well below zero, they can get up to 60 people. People using the shelter also get free meals and transportation.

And the winter shelter is a point of contact to help people connect to other services — like housing or utility assistance, benefits or treatment.

“Our ultimate goal really is to keep people alive,” Townsend Cronin said. “But the secondary goal is ‘OK, let's figure out a long term solution here,’ so people can become stable moving forward.”

At the basic level, Townsend Cronin says they need a big enough space, ideally with a kitchen and a separate area for families with children. She said she’d love to be able to find a place with showers.

Anyone interested in offering space can email Townsend Cronin at ltownsend.cronin@soinhomeless.org or call 812-394-7921.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec, Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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