Indiana Homeless Man Chooses to Be Arrested to Avoid Staying Out in the Cold

A 72-year-old homeless man in Indiana reportedly chose to be arrested to avoid spending another night out in the cold.

John Keown was booked into Vanderburgh County Jail at 1.45 a.m. on Sunday morning with his bond set at $500, according to the sheriff office's prison inmate lookout.

Keown is reportedly facing charges for criminal trespassing after refusing to leave a hospital in the town of Evansville in the middle of the night.

He said he was not feeling well so went to the emergency room at a local hospital, according to local news station 14News.

Vanderburgh john keown
John Keown, 72, was arrested on suspicion of criminal trespass. Vanderburgh Sheriff's Department

But when the doctors found nothing wrong with him he refused to leave and the police were called, the broadcaster reported.

Officers gave him the option of leaving the hospital or being arrested and Keown reportedly chose the latter.

In a 14News interview from the county jail, Keown, who is unable to speak, wrote on paper that he was feeling, "fine!".

In the footage, Keown can be seen wearing a grey prison uniform and a facemask. He shakes his head to indicate he is homeless when the reporter asks where he lives.

Keown told the broadcaster that he chose to be arrested rather than spend a night in the cold. He said that he is a good man and has no idea what his future holds but that he will turn to prayer.

Zac Heronemus, executive director at Aurora, a non-profit that works with homeless people in the Evansville community told 14News that many homeless people like Keown chose to go to prison so they can get off the streets although this makes it that much harder to find a home when they leave.

Heronemus said: "Let's put it this way, when you have your backs up against the wall, any option out there, while you're experiencing homelessness, is a step up above being out on the streets and being out in the elements."

Jason Emmerson, executive director at United Caring Shelters, told 14News that a white flag, which is issued when temperatures are particularly cold and means no one will be turned away, had not been put in place the night Keown was arrested.

Emmerson added that there shelter was at maximum capacity of 50 people but believes they missed an opportunity to help someone after hearing what happened to Keown.

It comes as the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated welfare issues in the U.S. with rough sleepers facing more poor health risks while unemployment and evictions have fuelled fears of mass homelessness.

Statistics show that evictions negatively affects individuals' ability to secure a job, maintain their health and lead to poverty that can be very difficult for a family to climb out of. Renters may accrue more rental debt than they may ever be able to pay back.

Newsweek has contacted Evansville Police Department and Vanderburgh Sheriff's Office for comment.