Frigid temperatures blanketing the city are sending more people to Columbus’ Brighter Days emergency shelter.
The east-side facility at 421 S. Mapleton St. sheltered 20 people Thursday night, after providing beds to 24 on Wednesday night, said Elizabeth Kestler, Love Chapel’s executive director. That’s about double what the facility occupancy was when the shelter opened this fall.
The facility has had an average of 14 beds filled each night as of Nov. 27, Kestler said.
“We have seen an increase steadily as the weather has gotten worse,” she said.
Temperatures plummeted late in the week to lows in the 20s, with some snow squalls Friday morning, and temperatures are expected to be cold through next week, according to the National Weather Service.
The shelter, in a renovated former Columbus Township fire truck maintenance facility, has a 36-bed capacity, but has cots available if needed, Kestler said.
Love Chapel operates the shelter in a public/private partnership with the Columbus Township Trustee’s office, which owns the building.
The shelter has provided overnight housing to 79 different individuals so far since it opened, Kestler said. There are 25 beds for men, and 21 for women at the shelter, which was renovated by community members and businesses who donated much of the materials and labor.
The Columbus facility was renovated to provide emergency shelter particularly for those who might endanger their lives by trying to stay outdoors in dangerous weather conditions.
In Indianapolis, police found the body of a homeless man on fire Thursday night in a wooded area near the IUPUI campus, The Associated Press reported. Investigators said a propane tank on a stove exploded, setting fire to the man and a tent. Indianapolis detectives said the area was being used as a homeless camp.
The Columbus Police Department checks on individuals they see outdoors in severe weather during their patrols, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman. Officers check under bridges and in areas known to be frequented by the homeless to encourage them to find shelter at Brighter Days or another facility, he said.
Officers also patrol Interstate 65 a few times each shift to look for stranded motorists who might be walking to an exit to find assistance, he said.
While the Brighter Days shelter is limited to providing beds for Bartholomew County residents, Love Chapel staff members are prepared to help those from outside the county find shelter and transportation, Kestler said.
Horizon House in Columbus offers emergency housing for families and Love Chapel has other contacts to provide placements as necessary.
Adults seeking emergency shelter may stop in at Brighter Days for in-take between 6 to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
Clients can take a shower in the morning and are served breakfast before they leave the facility at 9 a.m. Every individual who enters the facility undergoes a background check for security reasons, Kestler said.
To provide shelter for individuals during the day, Brighter Days is offering enrichment activities to help them move toward self-sustainment, Kestler said.
Many clients from the shelter also are working with Centerstone caseworkers to deal with substance or mental health issues. Bus vouchers are also provided so individuals can travel to appointments or meal sites, Kestler said.
Columbus Township Trustee Ben Jackson also said many clients at the shelter are actively working to gain housing stability and staff at Brighter Days are assisting with that.
“Our goal is to get people to be as independent as they can,” Jackson said.
For information about how to donate or volunteer with Brighter Days Housing, contact Love Chapel by e-mailing email@example.com. Volunteers are needed to work four-hour shifts from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
For general information, visit Love Chapel’s website at columbuslovechapel.com/
Brighter Days Housing, 421 S. Mapleton St., has 36 beds available for individuals needing emergency shelter assistance. The facility accepts individuals on an in-take basis from 6 to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
All clients are required to undergo a background check when they arrive and are allowed to bring one bag inside with them. No food or drinks permitted. Officials also ask that prospective clients don’t arrive before 6 p.m.
The facility, which is operated by Love Chapel, can be reached at 812-344-4512.