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Frigid Temperatures Force Homeless to Look for Shelter

WTIU’s Sara Wittmeyer reports on Bloomington’s most vulnerable population – the homeless—and how they are coping with the extreme cold.

Forecasters predict temperatures tonight to plummet into the low single digits. When it dips that low, the homeless population scrambles for a place to go.

Bobbie Summers is Martha’s House Executive Director. “What I think is probably the hardest part is when somebody come and you can’t house them and you know you are sending them out in the cold.”

Summers hasn’t had to turn anyone away this year, but every night for the past several days she’s had to hand out these sleeping bags and let guests sleep in an overflow area – in the kitchen next door.

“Every night I get a couple more people. I’ll get a couple more people tonight. So by the end of the week I’ll be completely full and it’ll stay that way until March 31st when we shut the program down.”

When people come into the shelter who Summers doesn’t have room for, she gives them two bus tickets and calls around to help them find a bed for the night somewhere else. People can often find a bed through the help of the Interfaith Winter Shelter Program. Four churches participate and take turns offering shelter to the homeless. First United Church serves as a shelter two days a week and even though it’s only December, Jack Skiles said they’re already struggling with reaching capacity.

“We know that when it becomes January and super cold that even brings in the die-hard who are sleeping in tents still,” said Skiles. “There are still people out there who are sleeping in tents and they come in as they get tired and colder.”

Last year First United hit a peak of 41 people in the middle of the winter. That number has been as high as 51 already this year. Skiles said the church is working with other community resources to develop more space.

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