Bloomington Salvation Army gets creative after the city shut down one of its sleep centers

Safe Harbor Shelter opens a ‘Midnight Café’ for homeless individuals during cold nights
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 6:40 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2023 at 6:45 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BLOOMINGTON (25News Now) - Cold winter nights can make for a dangerous season when you don’t have a place to stay warm.

“Very hard. Very, very hard because there’s so many of us that don’t have a bed, and we all sit in chairs, so it’s self-explanatory,” said Evangala Jirus, a Bloomington resident experiencing homelessness.

Evangala Jirus has struggled to find a permanent place to live for over three years, but you’ll often find her at the Bloomington Salvation Army Safe Harbor Shelter.

For years, the Safe Harbor Shelter has provided an overnight emergency winter shelter. It supplied beds for people who didn’t have a permanent home.

During the annual inspection, Bloomington City staff told the team at Safe Harbor that they could not supply beds in an area designed for a cafeteria for safety reasons.

Despite the City of Bloomington shutting down the Salvation Army’s overnight emergency winter shelter, they got creative to find another way to serve their homeless community by opening a ‘Midnight Café.’

“We have to take care of our neighbors and our community members who are in this situation,” said Deborah Cole, the Development Director at Bloomington Salvation Army. “We want to do our part and what we can to bring in as many people as possible to keep them from freezing or losing fingers or toes.”

The ‘Midnight Café’ is open for people looking for a warm place to hang out overnight from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. It provides a warm and safe space with food and drinks.

But people who take advantage of the café cannot lie down and sleep.

“It’s our temporary creative solution to still bring people in from the cold,” Cole said. “Ideally, we would love them to be able to lay down and get some rest, but we want to abide by all the codes and be as safe as possible.”

Cole says this has been a good thing in some ways because it allows them to take a step back and make changes that will be better for everyone in the long run.

“It’s hard being out here with nowhere to sleep,” Jirus said. “I mean, they gave us a place for shelter when needed, when not in need, a couple of nights, here and there. They’re a big help; it’s a blessing.”

Cole says their goal is to find or create a space that meets city standards for their people to get some rest.

In the meantime, Cole says their regular Safe Harbor shelter and residential areas are running as normal.