COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — With temperatures falling, a local organization is paying special attention to a portion of the population without anywhere to go to escape the cold.
For those who are homeless in central Ohio, gaining shelter and having someone to keep an eye on medical conditions could potentially be the difference between life and death, especially in below-freezing temperatures.
The group looking out for those in need is called Mount Carmel Street Medicine and their goal is to provide the most basic necessities to an extremely vulnerable population.
For nearly 25 years, as long as this program has existed, Steve Roth and Jackie White have navigated the tent communities of central Ohio, serving those living without the basics: food, water, and shelter.
“When we first started, it was mostly alcohol,” Roth said. “Now it’s all drugs. It was heroin; now it’s all fentanyl and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.”
Roth, with Mount Carmel Street Medicine, said the reason why so many have found themselves here, living in a tent off of High Street on the city’s south side, has changed, but organizations dedicated to helping those in need have not.
“You see the most unique patients with lots of problems,” Roth said.
White, a nurse practitioner, knows many of her clients by name, and not only works on the physical but also the social aspects of life.
“We’re here for medical, but we also work on housing, if they are interested in rehab, we have resources for them to go into rehab, food stamps,” White said.
But the challenge for this team as we go deeper into winter is the inevitable falling windchill.
“We tell them where they can go, the warming centers,” White said. “There are some people who choose not to go into a shelter and that’s their option, but we want to make sure they make it through the night.”
With highs in the next few days reaching only the single digits and the added element of wind potentially pulling those temperatures below zero, the goal is to help those who want it to locate temporary shelter.
“They try their best,” Roth said. “They insulate their tents as best they can and light a candle or have a propane heater and it scares me to death, being a retired fireman.”
These teams are doing what they can to provide blankets and sweaters, but the fear of the cold remains a fear for those without.
For years, Tony has navigated these streets and tents, even helping clean the communities when he can. He said although he will never be fully prepared, it’s organizations like Mount Carmel Street Medicine and their offer of food, medicine, and a map to shelter that keeps him going Ohio winter after Ohio winter.
“They change lives,” he said. “I couldn’t have made it through 12 winters without them.”
The items Mount Carmel Street Medicine donates to those in need come in the form of donations, meaning every blanket, hand warmer, pair of socks, and gloves, comes from the public.
If you would like to help the team, click here to see how you can donate.