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Group struggles to continue mission of feeding Indy's homeless after both of their trucks break down

Refuge Place Indy lost an engine in one van during the summer. Now, their second vehicle is out of commission after a fire.

INDIANAPOLIS — On Wednesday, Thanksgiving dinner arrived early on a sidewalk in front of Richard G. Lugar Plaza

That’s where volunteers with Refuge Place Indy fed some of the city’s homeless population, who come to that spot to eat every afternoon. 

“This is the only meal that most of them will receive on any given day,” said volunteer Elder Coleman. 

The people who come there, according to the volunteers who feed them, are the same people who don’t go to the city’s shelters and are often dealing with addiction or mental health issues. 

“Those who are in parking garages, sleeping in tents, alleyways, abandoned properties — that’s who we serve,” Coleman explained, saying the organization not only serves meals, but takes food to areas of the city where people live outdoors. They also provide transportation to doctors’ appointments. 

More than 100 people volunteer with the organization that relies entirely on donations. 

“When you are a 100% volunteer-based organization and if somebody calls and says they have supplies for you and food for you to pick up, you really have to be as responsive as possible,” said board president Tiffanie Ditlevson. 

That got harder for the nonprofit after their vans, both of which are used vehicles, gave out. The first breakdown happened this past summer. 

“The engine went out. It would cost more to fix the engine than the car was worth,” Coleman said. 

RELATED: New report finds Marion County homelessness increased 21% in last year

Then last week, the engine on the second van caught fire. 

For now, volunteers have had to rely on others letting them borrow their larger vehicles, like a van on loan for a few days from Chicago's Pizza in Plainfield.   

It’s not a permanent solution. 

“For us to be in a situation without a vehicle, it’s really a tight spot,” Ditlevson said — not only for the volunteers, but also for the people they serve, who they say are depending on them. 

“Honestly, I’m trusting God to do something because I don’t want to have to cancel because we can’t get to our friends. That would be an even greater tragedy,” said Coleman. 

Click here to learn more about Refuge Place Indy, including volunteer opportunities and other ways you can provide support.

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