News & Events

Frigid Temperatures Test Area Shelters

Frigid weather filling city’s shelters

Madelyn Kidd | The Journal Gazette

The executive director of the St. Joseph Missions Women’s Shelter said the organization has been running over capacity as temperatures have recently dropped with wind chills below zero degrees.

Erin Ness said the women’s shelter has 18 beds but has added cots to allow more women to stay. When the shelter is full, women are directed to The Rescue Mission to find another option.

St. Joseph Missions serves single women, and they can stay at the shelter during the day and at night.

Ness said the shelter has been running over capacity for about a week. She said it is a similar situation at The Rescue Mission – which provides beds for anyone meeting criteria – and Just Neighbors, a shelter for families.

Blake Douglas, the Rescue Mission’s senior director of marketing and events, said the shelter can add more space with additional cots for people who need it.

Douglas said the Rescue Mission has seen a 40% increase in usage of its emergency shelters compared with this time last year, and the number of people served has nearly tripled since 2020.

“We are doing our best – anyone who comes through the doors if they can’t stay here, we have found places for them to go,” he said. “We’ve worked with the city of Fort Wayne to be able to give out hotel vouchers to families that have came here. We have given out over 80 hotel vouchers.”

Vouchers to stay at local hotels are one contingency plan the city and shelters have worked on to give unhoused people more options. Not everyone is eligible to stay at the shelters, but this year’s winter contingency/emergency plan allows more options for people who do not qualify, Ness said.

St. Joseph Missions, The Rescue Mission and Just Neighbors partnered with the city for the emergency plan by providing warming stations.

Ness is the chairwoman on the Fort Wayne Area Planning Council on Homelessness. She said people can call the Rescue Mission from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. to go through their options, such as the hotel vouchers.

“We’re all working together to ensure that people don’t have to sleep outside,” she said. “And we encourage people to call if they think they have been banned from the Rescue Mission or if they need shelter.”

The city said in a statement in addition to the three shelters’ 24/7 services, The Salvation Army is a valued partner as a daytime shelter.

“An additional low barrier shelter to assist the excellent work of our current partners has been and continues to be a priority,” the statement said. “Funding, staffing and property would have to be secured to move forward in the future.”

In the past when Fort Wayne used city-owned facilities as shelters in extreme weather conditions, they found the city did not have the expertise and personnel specialized in that type of service, but the shelters do, the statement said.

The city has provided a $30,000 grant for the shelters and part-time seasonal staff to help house more individuals in need of shelter.

Single women can call St. Joseph Missions at 260-426-7358, and families can call Just Neighbors at 260-458-9772.

The Rescue Mission can be reached at 260-426-7357, and those calling to go through options can call 260-426-7357, ext. 156, between 2 and 3 p.m.

The Rescue Mission offers a warming shelter at 404 E. Washington Blvd., which is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., regardless of temperatures.

At a glance

To call on shelter options:

• Single women can call St. Joseph Missions at 260-426-7358.

• Families can call Just Neighbors at 260-458-9772.

• Anyone seeking shelter can call the Rescue Mission at 260-426-7357. To go over other options, call 260-426-7357, ext. 156, between 2 and 3 p.m.

The Journal Gazette, January 18, 2024