City establishes overflow homeless shelters at Garfield, Washington parks

The city of Indianapolis—in partnership with the Marion County Public Health Department, Wheeler Mission and local faith groups—has established two temporary overflow shelters for residents experiencing homelessness.

The shelters at Garfield Park and Washington Park will allow the homeless to maintain safe distances from others during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city said in a news release.

The two temporary shelters, which are intended for healthy residents, have a combined capacity of 85.

The Indianapolis Continuum of Care has screening guidelines in place for when residents enter a shelter. Those guidelines are aimed at ensuring those who are sick aren’t spreading the virus. Individuals experiencing homelessness who have suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 are being cared for at a state-led safe recovery site, the location of which the state has not identified.

“As a city, our number one priority is the health and safety of our residents,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said in written comments. “Just like anyone else in our community, our most vulnerable neighbors are safer at home. That’s why we are committed to a community response that provides shelter, food, health care and other resources to our residents experiencing homelessness, and helps them follow social distancing and other public health guidelines to the greatest extent possible.”

The nature of COVID-19 transmission creates increased exposure risk for those in shelters or on the street. As a result, city officials said they needed to create the temporary shelters. The Indianapolis Continuum of Care has asked that the shelters keep beds 3 feet apart.

The city has worked with Indianapolis Continuum of Care on crisis-response measures, including supplying personal protection equipment, disinfectants, thermometers and other supplies to shelters and service providers.

The team also has placed portable hand-washing stations throughout downtown and posted a public health infographic at locations where groups are known to sleep outdoors.

The city’s Office of Public Health and Safety is partnering with Second Helpings, Pacers Sports and Entertainment and Professional Blended Street Outreach to provide more than 1,600 fresh meals per week to individuals sleeping outside and in encampments.

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