February 21, 2020

Here’s how you can help New Albany’s White Flag program

By Natalie Hoefer

To provide shelter for the homeless on nights between Nov. 15 through April 15 when temperatures will be below 35 degrees for four consecutive hours between 7 p.m.-7 a.m., the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana’s (HCSI) White Flag shelter in New Albany is in constant need of volunteers and donations. Here’s how you can help.

Shift volunteers

There are currently 22 nights in need of adoption by a team or individual volunteers should White Flag conditions be declared on those days. Each night requires at least seven volunteers split into three shifts. Volunteers are contacted before 3:30 p.m. when White Flag conditions have been declared for that night.

First-shift volunteers serve from 6:30-10:30 p.m. and are responsible for setting out air mattresses and linens, heating and serving a frozen meal or serving a meal prepared and donated by a local restaurant, and making guests feel welcome. This shift allows for the most interaction with guests.

The second shift runs from 10:30 p.m.-5:30 a.m. Volunteers on this shift keep watch to help guests if needed or to notify the hired White Flag site captain of any needs. They also prepare sack lunches for guests for the following day, take stock of donations and perform other light tasks.

The third shift is from 5:30-7:30 a.m. Volunteers on this shift wake the guests, prepare and serve a light breakfast, see that guests are out by 7 a.m., put away the mattresses and straighten the gym so it’s ready for Salvation Army programs by 7:30 a.m.

Parishes can form one team or multiple teams. Groups within parishes can also form a team, such as men’s or women’s clubs, prayer groups, rosary societies, small Church groups, etc.

The contacts for parishes currently providing volunteers are:

A men’s prayer group from St. John Paul II Parish in Sellersburg will also soon be volunteering.

Other parishes or groups interested in volunteering can contact Celeste Cook at 812-768-6142 or ccook@soinhomeless.org.


White Flag welcomes donations of easy-to-open portable canned meals, tea bags, hot chocolate, and easy-to-serve breakfast items such as cereal and boxes of single-serve flavored oatmeal packets. Home-cooked items are prohibited due to health regulations.

Non-food items always in demand include gift cards (preferably for Kroger, which is near the shelter site) and 99 percent alcohol for cleaning the air mattresses after each use.

Donations can be dropped off at the HCSI offices at 1015 E. Main St., New Albany, IN 47150.

Donations can be made online at www.soinhomeless.org/donate.html. Checks can be made out to “Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana” with “White Flag” written on the memo line, and mailed to Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana, PO Box 1871, New Albany, IN 47150.

Restaurant donations

Because health regulations prohibit home-cooked food from being served, local restaurants have adopted nights to provide cooked meals should White Flag conditions be called on that date. Restaurant owners interested in adopting a night can contact Celeste Cook at 812-768-6142 or ccook@soinhomeless.org. †


Related story: Volunteers learn homeless ‘are not a stereotype’ at New Albany shelter

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