Long lines, delays for energy assistance seekers

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Just as we're hearing about snow in the forecast, its crisis time for anyone who needs heat and can't afford it. 

Eyewitness News has learned people will have to wait months just to plead their case, trying to get help.

"I don't think that little thing's gonna cut it," says Tim DeWitt of his space heater.

The heater will have to cut it though, since it's all DeWitt has to heat his home now that his gas has been shut off.

"I get $724 a month on Social Security and my rent's $600, so it's either are you gonna pay the water or the gas or the electric," said DeWitt.

DeWitt has tried to get help. He can't even get an appointment though at Community Action of Greater Indianapolis. A call gets you this message saying you can't make an appointment over the phone.

"They're saying no, we're not taking appointments, you have to come up here and get in line," said DeWitt.

This year, the lines for heating help are longer with appointments already booked through February.

If your heat is already off or you have disconnect notice though, "You have to be here at 7:00 when we take the first 50 clients, those are our crisis appointments," explains Tangi Jackson-Nibbs with Community Action's Energy Assistance Program.

Even then, you won't get help that day.

"There are times we're not able to see everybody. We try our best with the staff that we have, but just the amount of people that need assistance this year as well as last year is overwhelming," add Jackson-Nibbs.

And this year, the program has less federal and state money to work with for its clients. "And more people to serve," explains Jackson-Nibbs.

Which means people like Millie Townsel, 73, who's about to lose her heat, better get in line early Monday and be ready to wait. She's not getting that help today, though.

"It's cold out here. It's very cold," says Townsel.

Townsel might just run into Tim DeWitt when she comes back to stand in line.

"I'm gonna try and go out there on Monday. This coming Monday at 7:00 and hopefully I can get in," says DeWitt.

If not, it could be a long and cold winter.