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How To Help Shelters Providing Services For Homeless During Polar Vortex

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Wheeler Mission operates both a women's and men's shelter in Bloomington. (Steve Burns, WFIU/WTIU News)

Local homeless shelters are working overtime to make sure everyone has a warm place to be during historic cold temperatures. 

The wind chill in Bloomington will get as low as minus 27 degrees. Shelters in the area have enough capacity to house everyone, but could use donations to keep up with demand. 

Shalom Community Center Executive Director Forrest Gilmore says one way Hoosiers can help is letting people know about the services available. 

He says if you see someone out in the cold, help them get to a shelter or call the authorities to help. 

"It’s super dangerous and we want to make sure that everybody gets into a safe place," he says. 

The center opened at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning for daytime shelter. The overnight shelter, A Friend's Place, is usually open at 5:15, but is open starting at 4 on Wednesday so there's no gap in shelter services.

The center's Amazon wishlist includes items like toiletries and backpacks, but pressing needs include outerwear like coats, jackets, gloves and scarves. Donations can be dropped off during their open hours. 

Volunteers need to go through orientation before serving. Information on how and when to volunteer is available online.  

Wheeler Mission operates two shelters in Bloomington, one for men and one for women. Both are no-barrier shelters, which means they don't test for drug or alcohol use. 

Between November 1 and March 31, the Winter Contigency Program sends teams throughout the city to find homeless and provide them transportation to a shelter. 

The shelter also has a wishlist for items they need a lot of right now.

"Donations, of course we need them year-round, but particular items in inclement weather such as this would be coats, jackets, gloves, hand warmers," says Directer of Advancement Chris-Michael Morrison. "And they can be brought either to the center for men or the center for women at any time." 

Wheeler serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, adding up to more than 200 daily meals. Volunteers can help serve those meals at the men's center. 

Wheeler launched social media pages last week to keep locals informed about cold weather alerts and available services. They're now on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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