By Ken de la Bastide
With the overnight temperatures hovering in the teens and snow covered streets and sidewalks local organizations that assist the homeless are realizing an increased demand for their services.
Most area residents don’t have to worry about going home to a warm place to stay on cold days and nights when the temperature and wind chill falls below freezing.
The Kokomo Rescue Mission and Coordinated Assistance Ministries provide a place to sleep, warm clothing and hot meals to those Howard County residents in need of assistance.
Sally Ripley, director of development for the Kokomo Rescue Mission, said there has been a marked increase of men staying in the shelter during the month of December. She said in December 2011 there were 1,210 nights of lodging. In December 2012, the number increased to 1,631.
“The average number of men staying per night was 39 in December 2011 and was 53 in December ,” she said. “The colder temperatures came earlier last year.”
The men’s shelter has a capacity for 63 men. She said Open Arms, the women’s shelter, was at capacity in December and early January.
Ripley said the average number of men staying in the shelter through the first week of January has been more than 50.
“If we have to we find them a place at another location [we will],” she said.
Ripley said the Kokomo Rescue Mission tried to avoid turning anyone away who needs shelter.
“We have options available to put people up for a night,” she said. “We have couches and we can put mattresses on the floor and there is room in the chapel.”
Ripley said on cold nights it’s important for people not to be left out.
On cold days, the dining room is kept open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for people to have a warm place to stay.
Ripley said the Kokomo Rescue Mission provides two hot meals a day, 365 days a year.
Ruth Lawson, CAM director, said more people are coming for coats, scarves and warm clothes in recent weeks.
She said the men’s shelter can house 12 men and is currently at capacity.
“We make sure we find a place for them to stay,” Lawson said. “If necessary, we take them to a shelter in Logansport.”