Homelessness, as captured on the night of Jan. 25, 2012, increased over 5 percent from the headcount local response advocates completed in January 2011. The story is much bleaker for veterans — homelessness among this population increased almost 35 percent year over year.
The 2012 Indianapolis Homeless Count tallied 1,647 homeless people in the city. Within this group, 351 veterans lacked permanent housing, up from 262 in 2011. Most of the vets counted were living in transitional housing.
"Unfortunately, our finds indicate that we not only have many families fighting to stay above water, those who have served our country and fought for our freedoms have seemingly lost their own sense of security - a place to call home," said Christy Shepherd, interim executive director of the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, in a Tuesday news release announcing the count results.
"If there was ever a time for the stereotype of a 'homeless person' to be broken, the time is now."
The release highlighted the prevalence of issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder among vets experiencing homelessness, noting that such challenges can make it difficult to hold a permanent job. It also underscored an unmet outreach need for vets on the brink of homelessness.
The sixth annual count, conducted by the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, includes people living in emergency shelters, transitional programs and on the street, inline with the definition of homelessness outlined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
CHIP also reported a 14 percent increase in the number of homeless families. The 177 families identified represented 315 children and 239 adults. And advocates underscore the fact that this census only begins to expose the breadth of the issues local children and families face.
In addition to the street count, advocates tallied the number of children in Marion County schools who receive federal aid under the McKinney-Vento Assistance Act for kids without permanent homes, which would include those bunking at relatives' or in hotels in addition to those living in shelters, traditional housing or on the street.
In releasing the study findings, advocates noted national research that "suggests the number of people who experience homelessness at some time during the year is three to five times the number counted January 25. That means 5,000 to 8,500 people in Marion County are likely to experience homelessness in 2012."
CHIP partnered with the Indiana University Public Policy Institute to coordinate and report the count. HUD requires any community receiving federal aid for homeless people to conduct the count during the last two weeks of January.