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Homelessness in Indianapolis 

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Fire is an essential component to survival for the homeless. - MIKE ALLEE
  • Fire is an essential component to survival for the homeless.
  • Mike Allee

Defining success

I'm waiting outside the doors of Horizon House. It's 11:30 on a mid-November morning and exceedingly cold outside. There are five others waiting in line. They have large, stuffed backpacks and sleeping bags. Two of the men are animatedly discussing possible job opportunities. The others look stoic.

Joanette, executive director at the Horizon House, opens the door, greets me and leads me around his organization's building.

The building's main room is where the clients stay. Its high ceilings and open floor layout allow everyone to be seen easily. Off that room is a small hallway where hot coffee and donated baked goods are available. There's also a small room where laundry machines and telephones are available for client use.

But, most importantly, it's warm.

Joanette explains that clients can use Horizon House as their permanent address to receive mail and also to register to vote.

He unlocks a door and shows me an area where clients can get their hair cut. He shows me the section of the building that houses a branch of IU Health Center where clients receive medical care. He shows me the large room with computers that are used to help clients develop their professional skills, create a resume and search for jobs.

"My goal each and every day is to work myself out of a job," Joanette tells me. "That's what success looks like. The way our staff, and myself included, move forward is that we focus in on the successes we can see and support them."

About 20 percent of Horizon House's clients work at least part-time. Some of them also attend college.

"We measure success, especially with the demand on our services, by seeing the steps each individual takes each day here, big or small," Joanette says. "Just to get someone in off the street, that's a huge success."

Horizon House and other organizations doing similar work find jobs for their clients every day. They enroll them in schools. They give them a hot meal. They give them socks, shoes and a winter coat. They show them how to read, write and use a computer. These organizations provide services that many of us take for granted every day.

Joanette shows me all of this in his building and tells me what's available through other service providers. It seems like every detail has been thought of, but I still have to ask, "Why are people homeless?"

"I think we have to go back to what the root causes are; we need to look at educations," Joanette says. "We need to look at underprivileged individuals without a great education and no great support.

"The short-term look is having the resources to work with the barriers in one's life. What my agency does is we intervene once those issues have taken place — the education issues, the addiction issues. The long-term look is 'We've got to solve the systematic problems.' Until we have those things solved as a whole, all we can do is put a Band-Aid on these issues. All we can do is fight every day for those resources that will change people's lives."

He continues: "The average age of a homeless youth is 7. The average age of a homeless person is 8. These kids start out already at a deficit. There's just not adequate opportunities for people in our society. And then there's veterans. How can we expect them to give what they give for us to be a free society and then not give them the adequate resources? That's just unconscionable.

"I think this is the broader conversation of inequities and also about the disparities of wealth in our country. The American dream, that's a sham anymore."

Help for the homeless:

Here are some organizations dedicated to serving people experiencing homelessness in Indy. If you'd like, share this page. Who knows? You might encounter a homeless person – or know someone headed that direction – who might need this information.

Horizon House

1033 E. Washington St., 317-423-8909

Services: Alcoholics Anonymous group; assessment and referral services; case management; civil legal services; clothing distribution; computer literacy; employment placement program; financial literacy; food service; housing placement and assistance; info port library classes; job readiness training; laundry; mail pickup; medical care; mental health counseling; probation services; restrooms; showers; street outreach; support groups; temporary storage; transportation; telephone access; veteran's services; women and children's area.

Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF)

964 N. Pennsylvania St., 317-951-0688

Services: transitional housing; employment services; Residential, Employment, Substance Abuse Treatment Program (REST); case management; Homeless Prevention & Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP); Veterans Service Center: "on-site supportive services to homeless and near homeless veterans. Services include food, clothing, personal hygiene items, household goods, drop-in shower facilities, transportation, housing and employment assistance and financial benefits counseling," according to their website.

Wheeler Mission Ministries

205 E. New York St., 317-635-3575

Services: Center for women and children; men's residential program; S.T.E.P.S. Program (Steps Toward Economic and Personal Stability); emergency shelter; food service (lunch to previous night's occupants, dinner at 5 to 5:30); work therapy; winter contingency program; mental health services; Health Care Hebron Addiction Recovery Program for Men; Higher Ground Addiction Recovery Program for Women

Dayspring Center

1537 Central Ave., 317-635-6780

Services: emergency shelter for families; food and clothing; case management; recreational and educational opportunities for children; Wellspring Cottage for "...families that have graduated from an emergency shelter program, who need extra time to address more deeply rooted issues that led to their homelessness. For example, drug addiction, insufficient skills, large debt, or lack of education," according to their website.

Holy Family Shelter

907 N. Holmes Ave., 317-635-7830

Services: emergency shelter; breakfast, lunch, dinner; telephones; laundry facilities; transportation; case management; job referrals; job training; childcare program; parenting classes; nutrition classes; medical services; legal assistance; counseling; GED preparation course; domestic violence counseling; financial literacy/recovery program; addiction treatment; recreational programs; transitional housing.

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