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Winter amnesty shelter opening in November leaves homeless worried

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Dropping temperatures mean many without homes in South Bend are worrying about where they’ll seek shelter from the cold.

An abandoned Cutting Tools warehouse is where the city is proposing a new shelter for the homeless. However, their doors won’t open until Nov. 1. Winter amnesty shelters are an option for those who chose not to make use of exsisting homelessness resources.

Those without a roof over their heads expressed that they wished the shelter would open sooner because it’s already too cold to be outside. Some are camping near the warehouse waiting for the doors to open.

“Generally November has been the date because that’s when the weather turns much colder,” Pamela Meyer, South Bend’s Director of Neighborhood Development, said.

The winter amnesty shelter is seasonal and provides cots and a bathroom and warmth during the colder months of the year. 

“Why wait till it gets really cold to start the weather amnesty,” Robert Forest said. He’s struggled with homelessness for two years. “So you gonna let them freeze? I don’t think November should be the month. It should be right now.”

Last year, Robert spent the winter living under a bridge because he said there was no space left in the shelters. And he paid the price for that.

“I got frost bitten hands, now I got permanent nerve damage so I can’t make a first, period,” Forest said.

Robert sought shelter from the cold in buildings that left their doors open because he said shelters were overcrowded.

This year, the City of South Bend has a plan in place for winter amnesty to give shelter to those who need it but, there’s still work to be done before they can open the shelter’s doors.

The site of the abandoned warehouse need to be approved for rezoning by the city October 22 before it can be used as a shelter. So until November, the homeless will have to seek shelter elsewhere.

“They can certainly go to the center for the homeless and if there’s a bed available or a space available for people, I’m sure the center would provide resources for those individuals,” Meyer said.

Hope Ministries and the Center for the Homeless are year-round facilities that offer shelter for the homeless. The city also recently opened the Oliver Apartments, housing specifically for those who struggle without a home.

The shelter will host both men in women in the same facility for the first time. The sexes will be separated. According to Meyers, there should be space for 35 men and 15 women inside the warehouse.

Those numbers are subject to change based on need but right now local shelters say that should get everyone off the street during the winter months.

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