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Seniors, rural residents need help during cold snap

DANVILLE – The bitterly cold temperatures this week have caused water pipes to freeze and prevented cars from starting.

But for some of Vermilion County’s most vulnerable residents, such as senior citizens, the arctic blast could have more dire consequences than a dead car battery.

Amy Brown, CEO of the CRIS Healthy-Aging Center in Danville, said if any of her employees learn that an area senior citizen has no heat, especially during this latest cold snap, “We would never leave them in a cold house.”

CRIS employees check on the senior citizens on the Meals on Wheels list by calling them three times a week to make sure they have heat and food.

“We call them every day we don’t deliver meals,” she said.

Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver nutritious meals to more than 250 Danville and Vermilion County seniors on Tuesdays and Fridays. The extreme temperatures and wind chill factors prevented this week’s meals from being delivered since many of the volunteers are seniors themselves, Brown said.

“They have shelf-stable meals for the next two weeks,” she said of the meal recipients but appealed for volunteers who could run one of the dozen Meals on Wheels routes so that emergency food boxes could be delivered next week.

Depending on where a senior citizen might live in the county, Brown said CRIS has partnerships with area organizations — such as Faith in Action, East Central Illinois Community Action and Danville Salvation Army — and other resources to help a senior resident in need.

“If their furnace goes out, we can make a plan to identify shelter for them until they can get it fixed,” Brown said. “Maybe they have family and friends they can stay with.

“We do our best to connect them to resources,” she said.

If the senior citizen is in a rental situation with no heat and/or frozen water pipes, a CRIS case manager can contact the landlord and tell them what the issue is, Brown said.

“We’ve assisted people in going to court and helped them to get connected to Land of Lincoln for legal assistance,” she added.

Other vulnerable residents who don’t have heat or have other issues at rural rental properties should refer to their lease to see what the landlord’s responsibilities are. Housing codes and code enforcement personnel typically are found in the City of Danville and within the city limits of some municipalities but not in rural areas of the county.

“We get calls like this throughout the year,” Doug Toole, director of the Vermilion County Health Department, said about problems with rental properties in the county.

“Housing is an extremely complicated area, and most of the time they (tenants) don’t have a lease,” he said.

The health department deals with only environmental issues, such as sanitary septic systems and solid waste collection, he said.


CRIS Healthy-Aging Center, 309 N. Franklin St., seeks volunteers who can deliver emergency food boxes to Meals on Wheels recipients in Danville and in rural parts of Vermilion County next week. Please contact CRIS Nutrition Coordinator Laura Flessner 443-2999 for more information.

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