INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indianapolis paramedics are braving the dropping temperatures to help people running into trouble because of the dangerous cold. Indianapolis EMS said of the hundreds of calls they respond to each day, they expect to see more calls related to environmental issues.
Driving through the streets of downtown Wednesday, it was easy to see the signs of a homeless population fighting the dangerously low temperatures.
"If it gets this cold it can be pretty significant pretty fast," Brittany Harmon, an IEMS paramedic, said.
Her car thermometer read 11 degrees, but Harmon said that doesn't factor in the wind chill. During this weather, she said she expects more runs to homeless shelters and places where they hang out.
"You kind of have to put on your social worker hat and help them a little bit in different ways than you normally do," she said.
Overnight, Wheeler Mission said it was beyond capacity. It serves as the overflow shelter for the community.
"Statewide the reporting numbers are actually down for the homeless in our state. City wide in our community our numbers are actually up 10 percent according to the latest point in time count, and we're experiencing the same thing, and actually higher than that, we're seeing number we've never seen before," Steve Kerr, the chief development director for Wheeler Mission, said.
The city said IMPD in partnership with Wheeler Mission and other local shelters and service providers activated the Winter Contingency for Indianapolis' homeless population. They are working to connect those who are homeless with shelters and care throughout winter.
But while the numbers climb at shelters, the number on the thermometer is expected to drop even lower in the coming days.
"Plan ahead," IEMS spokesman Brian Van Bokkelen said. "You know a hat, coat gloves jacket all that stuff. And then also if you're a person who needs to seek shelter plan accordingly based on the rules of those places."
Mayor Joe Hogsett is urging residents to avoid unnecessary travel, limit exposure outdoors and check in on neighbors.
"During this period of extreme cold, our public safety officers are working diligently, our community partners are opening their doors to those in need, and the Department of Public Works is carefully monitoring the safety of our roadways. But it takes all in our community to care for this community- I encourage residents to continue to embrace the spirit of the holiday season and ensure all of our neighbors are healthy and safe," Mayor Hogsett said in a statement.
For Harmon, the weather means she could be responding to anything from fires to a car wreck or someone who needs to come in from the cold.
"Kind of be more vigilant you know, weather can create a lot of problems not only for you guys at home but for us that are out here serving the public," she said.
The mayor's office reminds you to plan for extra time due to slick spots on roads, keep an emergency kit in your car, check for travel advisories and if you start sliding turn slightly into the skid. Residents in need of assistance can call 211 or 317-926-HELP. If you experience a power outage, report it to IPL immediately at 317-261-8111.