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Weather amnesty period ends in South Bend

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The weather amnesty period ended on Monday.

Homeless people in South Bend can no longer escape cold nights by sleeping in one of two weather amnesty shelters in the city.

This year, the City of South Bend partnered with Hope Ministries and the Center for the Homeless and opened two weather amnesty shelters.

The Center for the Homeless opened its doors on November 1 and after officials filed a permit late, the second location at the old Cutting Tools building on E. Tutt St., opened on November 29.

Genevieve Miller, the Deputy Chief of Staff for the City of South Bend Mayor’s Office, said the Tutt Street location worked out very well. The city says an average of 61 people stayed there each night.

However, the city and homeless advocates say homelessness is a year-round issue.

Monday morning, Michiana Five for the Homeless, a nonprofit organization, passed out food, blankets, and other supplies to people who sleep at the Tutt Street shelter.

John Shafer is the director for Michiana Five for the Homeless. He says Monday night will likely be the first time since November the homeless in Michiana spend their night on the streets.

The organization hopes the care kits make things easier.

“Just to have the comforts of having a blanket or a sleeping… it will help them continue to face their daily struggles being unsheltered,” said Shafer.

Shafer says the transition from a shelter to the streets is tough. He explains the homeless still face all kinds of weather and many sleep in fear because they’re afraid of being robbed or attacked.

Shafer says despite the Tutt Street Shelter opening late he thinks the City of South Bend, Hope Ministries, and the Center for the Homeless did a nice job with the weather amnesty shelters.

Shafer would still like to see a year-round shelter open.

“Weather amnesty is very important especially in the winter, but we feel it needs to be year round,” said Shafer. “There are people… that suffer needlessly in our community being unsheltered and it’s never comfortable, never safe being outside and sleeping at night.”

Miller says the city is in talks with partners to open a year-round intake center before next winter.

“We’re in dialogue with partners already and we’re working well in advance of the cold weather,” said Miller. “An intake or gateway center would have enough bed and services that we would no longer need winter amnesty once that is established. In that way it would be a much more permanent solution in addition to the permanent supportive housing.”

One man who is homeless says he spent the majority of this past winter sleeping at the Tutt Street shelter. He isn’t sure where he will sleep on Monday night.

“I just pray that all the homeless people can find a suitable place,” said Robert Forrest. “I’m out here with zero income pretty much so I do what I can do to make it out here. I got frostbit hands in the past, but I’ll make it. By the grace of God, I’ll make it.”

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