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Homeless shelters, advocates prepare for winter after eviction moratorium expires

The influx in eviction filings is putting a lot of pressure on homeless shelters and advocates who are worried the winter months could bring an even larger demand.

INDIANAPOLIS — Tens of thousands of Hoosiers are at risk of eviction after the federal moratorium expired in August and many benefits also ran out.

It’s estimated 65,000 Hoosier households are behind on rent.

The influx in eviction filings is putting a lot of pressure on homeless shelters and advocates who are worried that the winter months could bring an even larger demand for help.  

Last winter, Wheeler Mission hosted an unprecedented number of people due to the pandemic. In order to accommodate everyone, the city added two hotels to the list of overnight shelter options.

“Even with that help, our numbers were still kind of through the roof,” said William Bumphus, director of the men’s shelter at Wheeler Mission.

Credit: WTHR/Lauren Kostiuk

He said Wheeler Mission is not currently seeing a noticeable increase, but they do expect to see one soon. Compared to this time last year, they are up 40 to 50 people.

“By the time individuals get to Wheeler Mission, they have run out of every other option possible. So, it’s kind of like that last step,” Bumphus said.

Wheeler Mission doesn’t want that last step not to be available and is preparing expanded services for its winter contingency plan. A lot of the focus is on making sure there are not enough beds and space, so shelters don’t become overcrowded. They have also added another hotel option like last year.

“Trying to get to a place where we feel comfortable in knowing that anything can happen and if anything does happen, we don’t want to be scrambling, especially with the pandemic,” Bumphus said.

Advocates are also preparing for an influx of people this winter. In the meantime, many are trying to connect tenants to resources.

“We just can’t get the word out enough,” said Nancy Ramsey, executive director of Family Promise of Hamilton County.

Family Promise of Hamilton County helps connect the dots for those at-risk or experiencing eviction. They also work with those in poverty.

RELATED: Eviction filings spike after federal moratorium ends, funds slow to reach tenants

The nonprofit provides temporary shelter and programs for prevention, diversion and ongoing stability. Their goal is to keep families together.

Karly Alvey, the volunteer and outreach coordinator, said at the end of August, they answered triple the number of calls compared to the month of July.

“So, it has dramatically increased,” Alvey said.

They’re worried that in the next few months, there will be more families than they can serve.

“Our concern, especially now, is even greater on how we are going to serve all those families and those kids,” Ramsey said.

RELATED: Small claims courts flooded with eviction cases | Judges work to connect tenants, landlords with resources

With homeless shelters being the last resort, advocates are working to quickly get funds to Hoosiers so when winter hits, everyone has a warm place to stay.

If you are at risk of eviction or knowing someone struggling, you can call 211 or find resources here.

Wheeler Mission is also looking for volunteers and donations. You can learn how to donate here.

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