City launches blitz to help homeless sign up for housing

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The city launched an effort to connect those experiencing homelessness in downtown Indianapolis with permanent supportive housing Wednesday.

The 'Coordinated Entry System Blitz' is another step in the city's 5-year plan to end homelessness.

"The soul of the city should never grow accustomed to homelessness," Mayor Joe Hogsett said.

Street outreach teams spent several hours canvassing the Mile Square to get those experiencing homelessness to fill out applications for housing. Hogsett announced that 400 more permanent supportive housing units were identified.

"Together, we are working to create a pipeline to housing and long-term stability, and today, we help our most vulnerable residents take the first step toward ending their homelessness," Hogsett said.

The initiative comes as city-county councillors debate a proposed ordinance that would ban sitting or lying in the Mile Square from 6 a.m. to midnight. The proposal states it's for public safety, while opponents argue it criminalizes the homeless.

Marion County Republican chairman Sen. Jim Merritt released this statement Wednesday:

"Once again Mayor Joe Hogsett refuses to lead. In a recent IBJ article Joe declines to take a position on a Republican ordinance aimed at keeping people from sleeping and sitting on downtown streets, many right near the doors of offices, restaurants and stores. Just like our horrendous traffic problems and skyrocketing murder rate, Joe acknowledges the problem but has no solutions. Council Republicans are trying to solve our city’s problems but frankly, there is very little interest in the part of the mayor. We hope Council Democrats will work with us because it’s pretty clear the mayor is just not engaged."

Mayor Joe Hogsett responded to this.

"This is real leadership. 400 permanent supportive housing units to be made available to those who are experiencing chronic homelessness, not only here in the downtown area but throughout Indianapolis. We're actually doing something about homelessness and I take issue with the fact I'm refusing to comment on the ordinance proposed ordinance. What I said earlier today unfortunately Senator Merritt may not appreciate it but what I said today was that ordinance and its language is currently being vetted by city legal and I think it's prudent that the administration reserve taking a position until all of the legal issues have been worked out," Hogsett said. "But in direct response this is what real leadership looks like, providing not only the Reuben engagement center, 400 supportive permanent housing units to the homeless and frankly I would point to the behavioral assessment and treatment center that will find itself in the Twin Aires community justice campus once it's built. That's going to be moving our city away from homelessness to shelter from all of our neighbors."

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