Pandemic puts restrictions on local Weather Amnesty programs

NOW: Pandemic puts restrictions on local Weather Amnesty programs

SOUTH BEND, Ind --- Some local warming centers that serve the homeless are stretched thin because of the pandemic, with COVID restrictions limiting capacity for guests and volunteers.

The pandemic has put restrictions on, or closed, resources for homeless families in Michiana. Places like the Center for the Homeless said they’ve had to open its doors around the clock to help keep up with the increased need heading into winter.

“You know COVID has really taken its toll on a lot of folks. A lot of folks have needed to come to places like the Center for the Homeless and other agencies,” said Steve Camilleri, the Executive Director of the Center for the Homeless.

Camilleri said the colder months always see an increased need for housing, but pandemic restrictions have limited area resources.

“We continue to have to quarantine in our facilities," explained Camilleri. “So, because we’re taking that much of our housing stock out of the picture, we’re at capacity and then you know weather amnesty goes beyond those folks who are getting a bed and go through programming,” 

The pandemic has also put restrictions on the number of volunteers who can help at any time.

It’s caused the center to say no to help from large groups it typically depends on, and cancel some of its largest fundraisers.

One of the many reasons they’re taking measures to help protect everyone in the center.

"So, it’s incredibly important that we keep everybody here safe and vaccinated. You’re going to see people, we’re outside right now, but you’re to see people throughout our facility always wearing masks,” said Camilleri.

The center has been able to help vaccinate guests, along with its entire staff, including boosters.

While the 24-hour Weather Amnesty program is helping those in need this winter, groups like the center are hoping for lasting partnerships to fight homelessness long- term.

“There’s a lot of housing insecurity in this area and we need to do all that we can to provide the right housing, mixed housing, mixed neighborhoods for the guests and other people experiencing homelessness. It’s a real challenge and you know we just need you find enough housing and we need to find the right landlords that we can partner with and house the guest.”

The Center for the Homeless is open 24 hours for anyone who needs to get out of the cold, even if a bed is not available.

In addition to the center, Hope Ministries is also a 24-hour Weather Amnesty site.

Residents can also stop by the Howard Park event center or the community centers during these times below:

•    Howard Park Event Center – 219 S. St. Louis Blvd., South Bend, IN 46617

Monday – Thursday: 8am – 9pm, Friday: 8am -10pm, Saturday: 10am – 8 pm, Sunday: 1 pm – 8pm

•    O’Brien Fitness Center – 312 E. Walter St., South Bend, IN 46614

Monday – Friday: 5am – 9pm, Saturday: 7am – 4pm, Sunday: 9am – 2pm

•    Charles Black Community Center - 3419 W. Washington St., South Bend, IN 46619

Monday – Thursday: 9am – 8pm, Friday: 9am – 3pm

•    Martin Luther King Jr Community Center - 1522 Linden Ave, South Bend, IN 46628

Monday – Thursday: 9 am – 9 pm, Friday: 9am – 6:30pm

You can also click here if you’d like to donate to the Center for the Homeless.

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