United Caring Services Expands White Flag Program for Winter Months

UCS’ White Flag program helps people in need shelter from the extreme cold.

Every year, the seasonal White Flag program at UCC-related United Caring Services (UCS) in Evansville, Ind., serves countless numbers of people experiencing homelessness, providing a warm place to shelter overnight when the temperature dips below freezing. When UCS puts out the white flag, people know the overnight shelter will be open that evening.

But this year — thanks to generous donations by Moore Music and Pigeon Township and an expanded partnership with local homeless prevention agency Aurora — UCS will be able to keep the White Flag program open every night through December, January and February.

In addition to its regular day and night shelter services, UCS provides the low barrier White Flag program. The program at UCS has served the community since 2009 through a partnership with the Pigeon Township Trustee’s Office, which helps underwrite the program. White Flag typically occurs when temperatures are going to be below 32 degrees for at least three consecutive hours overnight prior to the Day Shelter’s regular opening. Normally, UCS operates White Flag approximately 50-55 nights every year, serving an average of 38 people a night.

The pandemic changed and challenged the White Flag program in many ways last year. Out of that experience, the idea to offer White Flag more consistently during the coldest three months of the year emerged. Due to social distancing measures, the program’s capacity each night is 45 people.

The White Flag season has already started in Evansville. In mid-November, UCS operated the program for five nights as temperatures dipped below freezing, serving 23 people each night, and more such nights lie ahead

Jason Emmerson, executive director, expressed thanks to Aurora and “The Homeless Experience Project: 48 Hours in the Life” presented by Moore Music and Pigeon Township, which enabled the expanded White Flag program to be possible this year. “We hope this pilot expansion continues in future years,” he said.

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