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IMPD working to keep homeless community warm during colder months

The department provides clothing, and even a ride to a warm place
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Posted at 5:22 PM, Jan 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-15 18:20:45-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A cold front has made its way into Indianapolis, and it's bitter.

People out and about bundle up, some run to their cars, others choose to stay inside all together.

The weather is almost too cold to bare.

For some people they have no where to go but outside.

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The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) reported that there were 1,619 individuals counted in the 2023 PIT Count, an 8% decrease from 2022.

For that population, finding refuge during the colder months can be even more difficult.

"It's alright, sometimes it's a struggle, sometimes it's more of a freedom," Mitchell Mulnix said.

Mulnix has been homeless for over a year, and tries to keep a positive mindset about it.

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With below freezing temperatures he is doing what he can to stay warm.

Mulnix tries to walk a lot, he says staying still is when you start to feel the cold.

He also relies on different organizations and shelters for the tools he needs to survive.

WRTV caught up with Mulnix as he left Horizon House, where he got lunch.

"These guys help me out and I stop over here at the St. Vincent De Paul, they usually have some clothes and stuff," he said.

It's things like extra clothes that help him handle the cooler temps.

Which is why IMPD's homeless unit is doing what they can to reach the most vulnerable.

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"What we do as the homeless unit just helping people where they're at and trying to make their life better in some way," IMPD Patrolman Phil Smiley said.

Smiley has been on the department for 29 years, and with the homeless unit for 12.

"I think after years of being a regular patrolman, you see people at their worst moment and I don't see anything positive and with these we're usually walking hand and hand through the whole process," Smiley said.

He says it gives him an opportunity to connect in a way he might not have been able to as a traditional beat cop.

He alongside the entire homeless unit, work to make sure the homeless community is okay.

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"They're just people fighting to survive and in this weather, fighting even harder. Most of them are extremely grateful when you help them, and if you just show them some grace they're going to reciprocate that," he said.

They drive around to the different homeless encampments to give people things like gloves, hats, blankets, boots, and hand warmers.

"It is beneficial to have everything you need with you because they're never there when you come back," Smiley said.

They also work to provide homeless people with the resources they need to survive the cold, including rides to warming shelters.

"We want to encounter people and make sure are they mentally making good decisions, are they clothed appropriately for the weather, do they have money to get something to eat, do they know where they go to get warm to survive this? If not we're going to give them a ride to the library, to a shelter, to one of the warming stations, whatever they need," Smiley said. "We are going to provide an outreach provider that's going to come out and provide them with what they need as well."

Smiley says they communicate and collaborate with different organizations that help the homeless community so they know where people are who might need help.

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"Being able to help somebody today happened in July, because I was talking to that guy and he knows that I am not just out there feeding him a line. I am intently going to come back and help you. If I don't have it with me we're going to figure out the people who can come out here and give it to you," Smiley said.

The city does provide a number of warming shelters across town for anyone who needs them.

The list can be found, here.