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

As the cold weather approached, United Caring Services (UCS) in Evansville, Ind., worried about how to house guests who use its shelter on the coldest nights of the season. COVID-19 safe practices made its current space no longer large enough to house the 70-to-80 people who use the overnight sleeping accommodations during extremely cold winter nights. Thanks to community partners, the problem is now solved.

UCS announced Nov. 12 that, in partnership with the Commission on Homelessness for Evansville and Vanderburgh County, the White Flag emergency shelter program will occur at the CK Newsome Community Center in Evansville. Now in its 10th year, the White Flag program conducted by UCS will include Evansville Rescue Mission (ERM) for the first time.

The premise of the White Flag program is simple: if the temperature overnight will reach below 32 degrees F, UCS hangs a white flag outside, showing that the facility will be open from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. for emergency shelter for men, women, and children experiencing homelessness. Each season, there are an estimated 60 nights when the White Flag program is in effect. UCS’s White Flag program is made possible every year by the generous support of the Pigeon Township Trustee’s Office.

“Due to the social distancing required by COVID-19, United Caring Services needed to be able to conduct our White Flag homeless shelter program at a larger facility,” said Jason Emmerson, executive director of United Caring Services. “It was important that we have enough room to accommodate everyone we shelter during times of peak demand. It also made sense to combine our program with that of Evansville Rescue Mission in a single, centralized location.”

“We’re pleased to make the CK Newsome Center available for the White Flag program,” said Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, president of the Commission on Homelessness. “It is an effective solution that ensures our unsheltered homeless population has a safe and secure place to stay warm overnight during extreme cold weather conditions. White Flag will not interfere with previously-scheduled events at CK Newsome Center.”

United Caring Services provides people in need access to crisis stabilization services and solutions through several life-saving programs: a day shelter (drop-in center) for men, women, and children; emergency temporary shelters for men and women; additional “white/red flag” emergency shelter during inclement weather; an innovative homeless medical respite for men and women; and 21 low income studio apartments.