EVANSVILLE, Ind. — The CK Newsome Center will be used to shelter people experiencing homelessness during extremely cold weather this year.
Evansville’s White Flag Emergency Shelter Program, managed by UCS in partnership with Pigeon Township, activates when the temperature drops below 32 degrees for three consecutive hours. This years’ program should be ready to activate on Saturday, November 21, 2020.
A white flag is raised outside of the building to let individuals know they can take shelter for the night.
This program began in 2010 and typically is operated out of United Caring Services and Evansville Rescue Mission but that wasn’t possible this year due to COVID-19.
That facility isn’t large enough to accommodate the number of people who will need shelter while keeping everyone distanced.
Over the years, the number of White Flag nights and participants has almost doubled.
A few years ago, the yearly average was about 23 people. In the past couple of years, it’s risen to about 34 with the busiest days in the 2019 – 2020 season seeing almost 70 people.
Jason Emmerson, Executive Director of United Caring Services, is estimating this year they would need space to house as many as 70 to 85 people because Evansville Rescue Mission will be combining their program with UCS.
The CK Newsome Center was his top choice due to the size of the facility, and Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke was on board with the plan.
This year, the shelter is preparing for the possibility that the high unemployment rate caused by COvID-19 might mean more people need shelter.
There’s also the possibility the moratorium on evictions could end in January, which could lead to many more people experiencing homelessness.
Emmerson hopes it doesn’t come to that but said the CK Newsome center could fit up to 100 people if need be.
“It (White Flag Program) is pretty essential. The mission of it is saving lives. No one, regardless of any decision they made or any decision made to them, deserves to freeze and be cold on the street. It’s important as a fundamental service to humanity that someone is allowed to be alive until tomorrow and every tomorrow is another chance to turn it around,” Emmerson said.
When people enter after white flag begins, which is usually at 7 p.m., they are given a mat and a blanket. The women and men are put on separate sides of the room, and people can come in at any time.
Emmerson expects White Flag to occur between 50 – 60 nights this cold-weather season.
Winnecke, who’s also the president of The Commission on Homelessness, said this change will help those needing shelter and will not interfere with events at the CK Newsome Center.
“It is an effective solution that ensures our unsheltered homeless population has a safe and secure place to stay warm overnight during extreme cold weather conditions,” Winnecke said.
Anyone wanting to volunteer to help with set up, clean up or any of the other programs United Caring Services offers can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the Courier & Press story HERE.