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Weather amnesty site awaits state permit, paperwork not filed in timely manner

SOUTH BEND, In. -- With snow in the forecast and near freezing temperatures projected next week for Michiana, the homeless are still without a weather amnesty site big enough to get everyone off the street.

An abandoned Cutting Tools warehouse is this year’s planned weather amnesty site but a delay in filing fire and safety paperwork has pushed the opening date from Nov. 1 to Dec. 1.

This has left many without a roof over their heads to find other options to stay warm outside. The Center for the Homeless currently serves as an amnesty site but there are only 10 spots available each night for men only. The spots are first come first serve and only provides floor space.

John Shafer, an advocate for the homeless, said these options are unacceptable. He attributed the delay in opening a weather amnesty site until December to a “lack of action” from the city.

The city, we’re asking, they need to step up,” Shafer, the Director at Michiana Five for the Homeless, said. “Especially when winter intensifies and there’s extreme cold days.”

The Tutt Street site is supposed to have space for 35 men and 15 women opening nightly for the homeless to take shelter from freezing temperatures. The 10 men-only spots at the Center for the Homeless does not satisfy the need and is leaving many homeless sleeping in tents.

 “We need to take care of our most vulnerable, some of the homeless are just that,” Shafer said. “They are very vulnerable; often they’re very sick because they’re outside a lot. Some of them have poor feet conditions, back issues, their health is poor.”

ABC57 asked the city’s spokesperson Mark Bode why there was a delay in filing the fire and safety paperwork needed to open the site.

Bode issued this statement in response:

“The City has a strong partnership with Alliance Architects and Hope Ministries. Contractors have begun life safety construction on the Cutting Tools building in advance of state permitting. The target date for Weather Amnesty shelter opening is December 1, the same date that the Hope-operated shelter opened last year.”

“There is a need especially when it’s below 32 degrees for our homeless,” Shafer said.

The planned weather amnesty site was approved for rezoning Oct. 22 and according to David Hosick with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the plans were submitted by the architect on Nov. 14.

It typically takes 10 businesses days for approval, which would mean the city might not get what they need to open the weather amnesty site until two days before the projected Dec. 1 opening date.

Shafer said even if the city opens the site on Dec. 1, he’s planning a rally Dec. 3 to demand changes for the homeless in South Bend.  He wants the city to have a permanent location for weather amnesty that always opens Nov. 1 to avoid these complications in the future.

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