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Southern Indiana homeless coalition transitions to hotel mode for white flag emergency shelters

The coalition is sponsoring the shelters during inclement weather for anyone in the community in need of a warm place to sleep.

NEW ALBANY, Ind. — Temperatures are expected to dip below freezing Saturday night and area emergency shelters will raise the white flag.

The Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana is sponsoring the shelters during inclement weather for anyone in the community in need of a warm place to sleep and some hot meals.

For nearly five years, they have been giving people a warm and safe place to stay, when temperatures drop below freezing. Now in the midst of a pandemic, they are changing how they are helping people in this community.

Leslea Townsend Cronin, the executive director, explains usually their guests would be in one room, spread out, and that's how they started the beginning of this white flag emergency shelter season but with nearly double the amount of people they usually serve.

"Because people are not going to be letting them you know stay on their couches. Their not going to get their friends, family members whatever, they weren't going to let them stay there overnight on cold nights because of the fear of COVID," Townsend Cronin said. "You know as best we tried to mitigate social distancing everybody wore a mask, we had CDC health department guidelines with serving food and things like that it was just, there were too many people in a small space."

With so many new guests coming in, they were worried they could do more harm than good.

"A lot of them don't spend time together, they don't see each other, and we were having a potentially super spreader event every single time we were having white flag," Townsend Cronin said.

So with the help of a $75,000 donation they were able to move to a hotel model. This weekend, it's at the Hampton Inn on West Spring Street in New Albany. Guests can either show up or get a free ride to the shelter location from TARC. 

"It's a luxury. You know they are coming in, they are getting a soft plush king sized bed, they've got a TV, they've got warm coffee, their own private bathroom," Townsend Cronin.

This change has been the silver lining of this pandemic. Leslie says not only does it protect them from the virus, but it gives them more privacy to possibly help provide resources to those in need.

"My goal at the end of the day for that is for people to say I like this, this feels good, let me see how I can make this a permanent thing for me," Townsend Cronin said.

Visit their website to find out about the latest white flag shelter.

Officials said you will not need a reservation and the hours of operation are from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and guests must arrive by 10 p.m.

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