Volunteers pack hundreds of winter kits for ‘Operation Winter Ready’

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — As the weather gets colder, police will be out patrolling the city’s homeless camps making sure those on the streets are staying warm. Thanks to “Operation Winter Ready,” they will be able to provide those experiencing homelessness a valuable kit to get them through the cold months.

“This is one of the best tools I receive to do my job,” said Phil Smiley with the IMPD Homeless Flex Unit.

For officers like Smiley, these winter kits are vital to their work, and they’re even more vital to those who receive them.

“We take an oath to protect life, and I don’t see a better way of doing that than (helping) those most vulnerable that are living on the street,” Smiley said.

All winter long, officers and street outreach teams will pass out blankets stuffed with necessities to the homeless, creating relationships along the way.

“When I can hand them one of these kits it just starts building that bridge between us and we can develop a dialog on how to best assist them,” Smiley said.

“We are wrapping up the winter ready kits, putting all the components in the blankets,” volunteer Richard Hyde said as he rolled up a blanket. Inside the blanket is a winter hat, filled with gloves, socks, hand warmers and a toiletry bag.

Thanks to the work of nearly 100 volunteers, roughly 2,000 of these kits will be wrapped and ready. Of all the important pieces, there’s a small piece inside the toiletry bag that could make the biggest impact of all.

“We have inspirational cards that have to go inside the bag with all the other toiletries,” volunteer Linda Hornyak said as she quickly stuffed notes into each bag. “It’s important.”

Packed and ready to go, these kits will be sent out onto Indy’s streets, warming hands and warming hearts all winter long.

“It just warms your heart this time of year to see people wanting to help those less fortunate,” Smiley said.

This is the sixth year of “Operation Winter Ready.” It was made possible by volunteers from IU Health, along with the Indy Public Safety Foundation, and Indy’s public safety agencies.

In addition to the IMPD Homeless flex unit, the kits will also be passed out by the Professional Blended Street Outreach Team.

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