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Muncie activates warming centers at higher temperature, responding to community concerns

By Stephanie Wiechmann, IPR News | Published on in Community, Government, Health, Local News
Muncie is increasing paving projects for 2022. (IPR File Photo)

The city of Muncie will begin opening warming shelters when the temperature dips to 32 degrees, changing the threshold by a dozen degrees.  As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, the city is responding to criticism that there aren’t enough community services when the temperature gets low.

Earlier this month, when evening temperatures dipped into the teens, Muncie City Council President Jeff Robinson and several community activists told local reporters they saw people living on the streets who needed warming services – and couldn’t find a place.  They asked the city for a better plan.  In emails sent to Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour and forwarded to IPR, they asked the city on January 7 and again on January 17 for details of a city warming plan.

Ridenour responded in a Facebook “community update” on Wednesday, where he raised the temperature for warming center activation.

“We are going to make these warming centers available now up to 32 degrees, instead of 20 degrees.”

The city will now “activate” these locations as warming centers when temperatures dip below 32 degrees. (Graphic: City of Muncie)

Ridenour says the city regularly meets with nonprofit organizations that already help people in distress – like the Muncie Mission, YWCA, Salvation Army, Christian Ministries, and the Delaware County Center Township Trustees office.  He says they are ready and able to accommodate everyone who wants help.

“So, we meet twice a week with these homeless and warming center providers.  And they say they have plenty of capacity, and we just need to take the steps to get people to their doors, and they will take care of them.  They have the staffing to take care of them.  They have the services there.”

If there’s no space in local shelters, Ridenour says the City Hall entryways are open for residents “24/7.”

“So it has been, and it will continue to be available for – and those entryways, which are heated and cooled.  So for both heating stations and for cooling stations.”

Previous mayoral administrations opened the whole City Hall lobby to those needing warmth.  But that was before new security measures were added to the lobby, which was in part a response to a 2020 incident, when the building was evacuated after two women spread a white powder around the lobby and other public spaces.

For those who shelter in the City Hall vestibules, there are no public restrooms.

Fire stations were also previously used as warming locations before the pandemic.