Daniel Paul Demland has been homeless and living in a tent in Fort Wayne for quite a while – three years, he says.
Monday morning, he decided it would be a good idea to stay someplace warm for a while, and he chose the lobby of the Fort Wayne Community Center, 233 W. Main St.
He was one of two people who had taken shelter there shortly before noon, when the temperature hovered around 9 degrees below zero.
The Community Center was one of four temporary warming centers and two emergency shelters opened by city officials because of the storm and bitter cold.
“I’ve seen worse,” said Demland of the weather he’d just experienced. He’d waited out much of Sunday’s snow at the downtown McDonald’s restaurant.
“I had some gift cards somebody gave me, so I had plenty to eat,” he said.
But his things – packed in a push cart, knapsack and canvas bag – needed tending to.
“My stuff got a little damp and it froze, so I came in here to dry out,” he said, a pair of socks draped over a chair.
“I knew this was a place to get heat and get warm. It’s been going pretty quick.”
Staff members said the warming stations and shelters weren’t overly busy Monday. Other warming sites included the Weisser Park, Jennings and Cooper youth centers, which opened at noon. The Main Street center opened at 8 a.m.
Yvette Paige, supervisor at Weisser Park, said no one had arrived by 3 p.m.
She attributed that to good luck – there hadn’t been power outages.
The 24-hour shelters were at the Salvation Army, 2901 N. Clinton St., and at the Public Safety Academy, 7602 Patriot Crossing.
Major Harold Poff of the Salvation Army said that facility had served eight people by midafternoon, including one man who said he’d slept under a bridge Sunday night.
He said the shelter would be open through today . Monday afternoon, City officials extended the hours through 8 p.m. today.
Kimberly Stout, disaster program manager for the American Red Cross, said no one had come to the Public Safety Academy shelter as of 3 p.m.
A third emergency shelter in the Monroeville Fire Department, 205 W. South St., opened at 2 p.m. after the town lost power. Reports of power outages began about 3 a.m., but power was restored around 3:30 p.m., said Joshua Wolff, fire chief.
However, the shelter will remain open until around 10 a.m. today , he said. “At that point we’ll re-evaluate. We don’t want to close it down and have another power outage in our area and have people stuck.”
The Fort Wayne Rescue Mission was pressing all available space into service Monday afternoon, said the Rev. Donovan Coley, CEO
He said the corridors and other open space would be used and the facility’s chapel could be used to house about 50 more people if necessary.
“If that fills up, we will connect with our partners who allow us to use their space,” Coley said.
“In terms of capacity, the emergency dorm is at capacity and we’re in what we call the overflow now,” he said.
He said the mission fed a larger number of people than usual at lunchtime Monday and was encouraging those people to stay.
Senior residents at the mission’s program were helping staff with meal preparation, Coley said.
“We’ll keep up the emergency mode until it passes 40 degrees,” he said.
The National Weather Service predicted temperatures would drop to minus 20 Monday night with wind chills between minus 30 and minus 45 degrees. Officials said that is a dangerous level in which frostbite and hypothermia can set in within minutes.