Apr 16, 2024 - News

Indy exploring new homelessness solution

Illustration of an apartment building intercom with the word HELP in the name slot.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The city of Indianapolis is seeking property owners with vacant housing units and service providers interested in supporting a new program for unhoused residents.

The big picture: U.S. homelessness reached a record high in 2023, Axios' April Rubin reported, as Americans grappled with an escalating housing crisis and the expiration of COVID-era safety nets.

Zoom in: The most recent point-in-time count of unhoused individuals in Indianapolis was down 8%, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but still recorded more than 1,600 people without housing.

  • Plus, some advocates believe point-in-time counts can be misleading and may drastically underestimate the true number of houseless individuals.
  • More than a quarter of those experiencing homelessness are families.
  • Black residents make up a disproportionately high share β€” more than half.

What's happening: The city is exploring a master leasing project to address its unhoused population, looking toward other cities that have successfully implemented permanent supportive housing programs.

  • New York saw better health outcomes for individuals with disabilities and their program reduced the use of high-cost shelters, hospitals and other emergency resources.
  • Washington, D.C. saw a drop in chronic homelessness.
  • City officials also said that Milwaukee is "a standout example that we have been looking at for inspiration and guidance."

How it works: Master leasing allows the city or a third party to hold leases on behalf of individuals who would be living in the units, which are typically apartments.

  • The city or third-party leaseholder would assume responsibility, including rent, utilities, etc., at market rate for five years. Multiple tenants could live in the units during the term.
  • Residents would be linked with flexible community-based services needed to maintain stable housing to move individuals out of expensive emergency or long-term care situations.

Between the lines: The program is designed to incentivize property owners with vacant units to participate while providing permanent housing to individuals who face barriers to securing permanent housing on their own, either financial or otherwise.

What's next: The city opened two requests for information β€”Β one for property owners and another for service providers.

  • Those close April 30.
  • The city is hoping to identify 138 units.
  • A spokesperson for the Department of Metropolitan Development said details on how the program will work and when it will be implemented depend on the interest the city receives through the RFI process.

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