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The Journal Gazette

Friday, December 08, 2017 1:00 am

Mission set for crowd as temperatures drop

75 extra beds ready; senior pastor expects almost all to be used

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

With nighttime low temperatures expected to dip into the teens – and snow predicted for tonight and early Saturday – those who provide emergency shelter to the homeless are gearing up for increased demand.

Donovan Coley, senior pastor and chief executive officer of Fort Wayne's Rescue Mission, said Thursday that, under the citywide plan adopted last year to open warming centers at warmer temperatures, the Mission already has been providing emergency shelter.

The temperature now needs only to reach 40 degrees with wind chill to open shelters, he said. That means people, even those previously barred from the Mission, 301 W. Superior St., can stay there during the day and overnight.

However, those using the Mission are expected to abide by its rules, which include no alcohol or drugs or disruptive behavior, he said, but staff can be somewhat flexible. “Nobody will be turned away if they're in compliance with our guidelines,” Coley said.

About 40 people have been using the facility off and on since October, he said. He said cots are set up in the chapel and in hallways if needed, and the Mission can accommodate up to 75 men beyond its 114 regular beds.

Coley said he expected many, if not all, of those spots will be filled this weekend.

The recent cold weather also has been triggering a second level of response, which kicks in when the temperature reaches 32 degrees.  At that point, any families who arrive at the Mission are referred to Just Neighbors Interfaith Homeless Network for overnight shelter, according to the city plan.

A representative for that shelter could not be reached Thursday afternoon for comment on recent demand.

The Mission has a staff person and resources to find emergency shelter for women with and without children, according to Coley.

Weather forecasts show the next level of services, offered when the temperature reaches 10 degrees, likely won't be needed in the near future.

Those measures include overnight accommodations for men, women and children at the Salvation Army if requested by the Rescue Mission and opening backup daytime warming centers by the parks and recreation department.

The wind chill reached 10 degrees in Fort Wayne overnight Wednesday and was predicted to fall to single digits last night and remain there tonight and Saturday, according to Nathan Marsili, meteorologist with the National Weather Service's northern Indiana office outside Syracuse.

The weather service Thursday predicted 1 to 2 inches of snow late tonight and early Saturday morning for Allen County and areas south and east of Fort Wayne. Areas north and west of the county could see 2 to 3 inches, according to the forecast.

Coley said those concerned about a homeless person's well-being because of  the cold weather should call Fort Wayne police at 427-1222.

“Police have information as to where they could take them and what would be open,” he said.

rsalter@jg.net