ELKHART — If not for Faith Mission here, Michael would have had to spend Sunday night in his unheated home, where the heating system is on the fritz.
There he would’ve piled on the blankets and hoped for the best. At Faith Mission, he had a warm place, even if it was on a mat on the floor in the homeless facility and soup kitchen. “Thank God I can stay here at night,” said Michael, who declined to give his last name.
Fortunately, most people, like Michael, seem to be managing despite the bitter cold and have places to go to keep out of the weather. The temperature in Elkhart as of mid-day Monday, Jan. 6, was minus-11, according to the Weather Channel, and the mercury was expected to peak on Tuesday only at 7 degrees.
Daniel Browning, residential program director at Faith Mission, hasn’t seen a spike in demand for housing there stemming from Monday’s extreme temperatures, he said. The 146 beds there are filled, he said, and five people slept Sunday night on mats — strong demand compared to the summer. But that’s been the typical sort of demand since the first snowfall of the season last December.
“People have kind of hunkered down,” Browning said.
Likewise, Arvis Dawson, assistant to Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore, hasn’t heard of any dire emergencies. There have been complaints to a city hotline about city plows leaving residential driveways blocked with plowed snow, he said Monday, but no reports of people sleeping in the sub-freezing temperatures with no where to go.
For now there’s no demand for city warming centers, Dawson said, though the city will respond accordingly if need arises. Browning said Faith Mission would let people in out of the cold, if they showed up, and given the bone-chilling weather, those like Michael sleeping on the mats will be able to stick around during the day.
Normally, if the temperature surpasses around 40 degrees, those, like Michael, who aren’t staying in formal Faith Mission homeless facilities are supposed to leave during daylight hours.
‘WIND TAKES YOU RIGHT OUT’
Apparent lack of emergencies notwithstanding, it’s cold.
Natasha Strickland, a resident at Faith Mission, said the short walk outdoors from her unit to the main Faith Mission facility nearly took her breath away.
“You don’t cover up, the wind takes you right out,” she said, waiting for some clothes to dry at the Faith Mission laundry room. Once her clothes are dry, she’s “in for the rest of the day because this is too cold.”
Jerry Yeager walked about 10 minutes from his home to Faith Mission for the free mid-day lunch and the trip left frost on his whiskers. He took the weather in stride, though — cold is the norm each winter here. He even spent Monday morning shoveling his driveway, though he took breaks from the cold every 10 minutes or so to warm up inside his home.
In downtown Elkhart, meanwhile, no one seemed to be willing to brave the cold. Or maybe it was that all the businesses were closed. The sidewalks around 1 p.m. were void of people — usually there are at least a few — and Main Street was void of traffic, except for city snow-removal crews.