Fort Wayne homeless: “winter is barely survival”

Local homeless population battles extremely cold conditions.
Local homeless population battles extremely cold conditions.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The extremely cold January has been tough for nearly everyone, and the community’s homeless population may have had it the worst.

On Tuesday, NewsChannel 15’s weather team reported that the low temperature of the day was 16 degrees below zero, which tied the record-low temperature for January 28.  That record was set back in 1963.

The Fort Wayne Area Planning Council on Homelessness counts the community’s homeless population every year.  Last year, 535 homeless people were counted, which included approximately 134 children, according to Rachel Rayburn, a volunteer member with the council.

“I’ve been out here for 15 years on the streets,” Drew Walters, a local homeless man, said.  “I’ve got to admit this is the coldest I’ve seen in a long time.”

Walters said he has spent several nights this winter out in the cold, but recently got a bed at the Rescue Mission.

“It was about 10 degrees below,” Walters said when recalling his nights outside.  “I stayed around the river, and it’s pretty wicked out there.”

Davin Cromie has also spent time at the Rescue Mission.  “Winter is barely survival,” he said.  “You just try to get out of the wind and stay as warm as you can.”

Cromie said he would find places in the country to sleep, before he was finally able to come downtown and stay at the Rescue Mission.

“People just hit the bridge and try to stay out of the wind,” Cromie said.  “Or people will just find an abandoned house and stay there.”

Cromie said Fort Wayne organizations do a good job of helping him and other homeless people.  “People come by, they know where to look,” he said.  “They bring you blankets, food, and coffee to help people get by.”

The 2014 count of the county’s homeless population will be counted on Thursday.  Rayburn said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires each county to make the count during the last week of January.

“You don’t want to show increases in homelessness but want to be able to provide services,” Rayburn an assistant professor at IPFW’s College of Education and Public Policy, said.

Rayburn said the count does not include people who live in cars, or people who stay with friends for a period of time, before either going back to the streets or to another friend’s home.

The count is completely done by volunteers.  Rayburn said volunteers are still needed.  Anyone interested can contact the Rescue Mission.

Rayburn added that the council is looking for winter clothing to give to the homeless while making the count.

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