Mar 28, 2024 - News

Indy's plan to keep homeless numbers down amid statewide increase

Estimated homelessness rate, January 2023
Data: HUD; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

As the number of people experiencing homelessness climbs statewide, Indianapolis city leaders say they're working to keep local numbers trending downward.

Why it matters: U.S. homelessness reached a record high in 2023, Axios' April Rubin writes, as Americans grapple with an escalating housing crisis and the expiration of COVID-era safety nets.

Zoom in: Nearly 9 Hoosiers per 10,000 experienced homelessness in January 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's annual homelessness report to Congress.

  • That's up 10.4% from January 2022, but down 18.2% since 2007.
  • In Indianapolis, the number of homeless individuals dropped 8% to 1,619.

How it works: The HUD analysis attempts to estimate the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night — in this case, in late January 2023 — to offer a snapshot useful to policymakers, advocates, researchers and others.

Between the lines: Black and Indigenous people were overrepresented among those experiencing homelessness locally and nationwide, as has been the case in previous years.

  • Black people made up just 13% of the U.S. population in 2023, but 37% of all homeless people and 50% of homeless people in families with children.
  • In Indianapolis, where the Black population is 29%, Black people account for 52% of the homeless count.

State of play: At a recent homelessness town hall held by Indy's Office of Public Health and Safety and IMPD, leaders stressed the importance of partnerships in keeping the numbers down.

  • Maj. Tabatha McLemore, leader of a new IMPD bureau established to address mental health and unhoused communities, said the city has seen a decrease in the number of homeless veterans due to an increase in federal funding and partners like Helping Veterans and Families.
  • The city is also getting a 20% boost in funding from HUD's annual Continuum of Care Program.

Reality check: Shelter restrictions, such as not allowing pets, being faith-based and not being able to accept families, also prevent some people from being housed.

What they're saying: "Here's an example. If a mother and her 19-year-old son with autism are looking for shelter, they would have to be split up," McLemore said. "The son would have to go to the men's shelter, and the mother would have to go to the women's shelter. And sometimes, families just aren't able to do that split."

What we're watching: The progress of Indy's first low-barrier homeless shelter, which is poised to bring an option with fewer restrictions to the 1000 block of East Georgia Street.

  • The vision for the "housing hub" would be 24/7 operation and easier access to services.
  • State officials have committed a $20 million grant to help fund construction of the shelter, and the city has allocated $12 million to support the effort.
  • Officials hope to break ground later this year with the goal of opening in 2026.
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