Number of homeless veterans down 20 percent in latest point-in-time count

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - There are several ways to calculate and estimate the city's homeless population. One method, done each winter, found a six percent decrease from a year ago, with the homeless veteran population dropped by 67 people.

The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) conducted the count, along with volunteers, back on Wednesday, Jan. 24.

A point-in-time count is a one-night event, designed to identify the number of homeless persons who are unsheltered or sheltered in emergency shelter, transitional housing and safe havens on a single night in Indianapolis.

The count found the number of homeless individuals decreased from 1,783 in 2017 to 1,682 this year.

“The numbers going down is a great sign," said Wheeler Mission Chief Development Officer Steve Kerr.

The organization's shelter for men has seen more than a 2.5 percent increase over the past year, according to Kerr. That's partially due to additional beds put in the shelter last November. Still, Kerr is pleased to see the overall picture improve.

“All of the stakeholders, Wheeler Mission, Outreach Indiana, Good News Mission, all of them, are working closer together to help reduce the overall homeless population," Kerr said.

A little more than a year ago at Mayor Joe Hogsett's annual State of the City address, the mayor challenged the community to provide permanent housing for 400 people experiencing homelessness.

Hogsett said Wednesday during the results of the point-in-time count that the goal had been reached.

His challenge is continuing this year, asking people to step in to provide rental assistance and a variety of wrap-around services to those 400 units now in place.

As for veterans, the number dropped from 328 in last year's count to 261 this year.

HVAF of Indiana's vice president of advancement, which helps gets Hoosier veterans and their families back on their feet, said helping the area's homeless population, specifically veterans, is a complicated issue but many have come forward to help.

“There’s a lot more awareness in our community now about veterans’ homelessness," Carmichael said. "Most people identify themselves as a patriot and the highest form is serving in the military. Only about 1 percent of our population serves in the military, but the rest of us look and say it’s not right when we see a veteran out on the street and people have really rallied behind that.”

Other findings in the count include:

  • More than a quarter of adults (26 percent) experiencing homelessness reported a substance abuse disorder.
  • 34 percent reported having a serious mental illness.
  • 53 percent have some form of disability.
  • 80 percent of women are currently fleeing domestic violence.
  • At least 18 percent had prior felony convictions.
  • 4 of the women counted were pregnant.
  • 128 families were counted (132 adults and 251 children).
  • 2,689 children were living in non-permanent housing.

The count also found that 56 percent were African-American and 40 percent were Caucasian. More than half of those counted were between the ages of 35-61 and 15 percent were children 17 and younger.

The annual count is required for communities to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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