GARY — Snow-covered streets and subzero temperatures usually mean Mary Edwards will see some new faces around the Brothers’ Keeper homeless shelter.
“Sometimes they’ll come in to warm up while waiting for a ride. Others will pop in for dinner, a hot meal,” said Edwards, who has served as the shelter's executive director for the last 30 years.
A refuge on Broadway
Brothers’ Keeper at 2120 Broadway is one of several warming centers available to the public during cold snaps like the one that has gripped the Region this past week.
Friday’s winter storm slicked roadways, dropped up to 4 inches of snow in some areas across Lake and Porter counties, and sent some people to Brothers’ Keeper for relief.
About a dozen people bundled up in jackets and hats Friday afternoon in the Gary shelter’s warm community room enjoying each other’s company.
Some stopped in for a short break from the outside. Others, like Michael Russell, 60, are staying overnight at the shelter.
After losing his house and welding job in Houston back in April, Russell said he floated from state to state before happening upon Gary a few days ago, he said.
“Ms. Edwards, she’s a wonderful person, giving me a place a stay like this. I almost froze to death in Kansas. It started snowing. Couldn’t heat my car because I had no gas,” the 60-year-old said.
Looking around the room, Edwards said many of the men staying at the shelter are just like him — down on their luck, with mounting debt, no job and no family willing to take care of them.
“If it weren’t for Ms. Edwards, I’d probably be sleeping in a cardboard box on the streets,” he said.
Warming centers available
With temperatures expected to dip below zero again this weekend and persist through next week, several cities and towns in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties are opening up community centers to the public.
The Brothers' Keeper shelter in Gary is available only to men overnight, but anyone can use the shelter from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in dangerously cold weather.
The Dyer Police Department has opened the department’s community rooms for temporary shelter. If it becomes long-term, the department arranges for the town hall to serve as a shelter, said Dyer Police Chief Dave Hein.
In Hobart, the Fire Station No. 2 community room, 2411 W. Old Ridge Road, serves as a 24-hour warming center and the PCC Building’s East Lobby meeting room is available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Maria Reiner Senior Center is available for senior citizens who live in Hobart during those same hours.
In East Chicago, the Bessie Owens center at 4001 Alexander Ave. is available as a warming center overnight from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. A city spokesman said East Chicago opens the warming center anytime there is a wind chill below zero forecasted for three consecutive days.
In Porter County, the Woodland Park Community Center at 2100 Willowcreek Road will be available daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Residents in need of assistance after 10 p.m. are encouraged to contact Porter County Dispatch by dialing 911, according to county officials.
In LaPorte County, several centers are open in Michigan City, including the police station at 1201 E. Michigan Blvd., the Fire Administration Building at 2510 E. Michigan Blvd., the Michigan City Senior Center, Two on the Lake, the public library at 100 E. 4th Street and Keys to Hope community Resource Center, 1802 Franklin St. Hours vary.
Police also encouraged people to call 211 from a Northwest Indiana area code if they need assistance.
Cold snap continues
Saturday will be partly sunny with wind chill values as low as minus 14. Isolated snow showers are expected Saturday night through Sunday.
Lake-effect snow is possible Sunday morning in Lake and Porter counties. LaPorte County also could see periodic lake-effect snow, with accumulations expected by the end of next week, according to the National Weather Service.
Temperatures will hold steady in the single digits for much of next week — with wind chills expected to fall to minus 25 through Tuesday morning.
People are advised to wear a hat and gloves because frostbite in extreme cold can happen in a matter of minutes, especially with uncovered skin and on the extremities, such as hands and feet.
Here's a look at some local warming shelters: