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Trying to answer 'How many homeless people live in Indianapolis?'

Posted at 4:34 PM, Jan 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-30 16:35:09-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Exactly how many homeless people are in Indianapolis?

That question will at least be attempted to be answered Wednesday night, when community members perform the annual Point-in-Time homeless count.

Members of the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) and the Professional Blended Street Outreach will try to identify the number of homeless people in Marion County. The count will include people who are unsheltered or sheltered in emergency shelter, transitional housing or safe havens.

The Point-in-Time count is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to receive federal funding to combat homelessness.

“We’ve been conducting this count now for over a decade,” said Chelsea Haring-Cozzi, executive director of CHIP.

The count helps CHIP and city officials identify the current state of homelessness in Indianapolis and any trends noticed over the past few years.

“With that number, each year we look at the overall number, as well as how it impacts different groups in our communities,” Haring-Cozzi said. “We look at it by racial breakdown, gender breakdown, family status. We look at various barriers people experiencing homelessness are facing, and we work very closely with the city as well as our homeless service system to identify where we see the biggest needs, where are the gaps, and where do we need to target resources.”

The cold temperatures are expected to continue into Wednesday night, with lows as cold as -12. To help homeless people who may be out in the elements, the 30 teams performing the count will bring backpacks with supplies.

With the backpacks, the teams will have gloves, socks, a hat, hand warmers, a blanket and bus passes.

“Top of mind on Wednesday will be to encourage people to go into shelter,” Haring-Cozzi said. “Those who we find unsheltered, not only will we have supplies, but really trying to get people into shelter where it’s safe and warm.”

The City of Indianapolis looks to be making a more conscious effort to fight homelessness beginning this spring. Some of the $800,000 raised from an increase in parking meter hours is expected to go toward three new initiatives to curb homelessness and panhandling.

RELATED | How Indianapolis will combat homelessness, panhandling

In 2018’s count, there were 1,682 adults and children experiencing homelessness in Marion County.

Haring-Cozzi said despite the added attention to homelessness in the downtown area, there is reason for optimism in Indianapolis.

“[Over the last five years] we’ve seen a steady decline of overall homelessness,” she said. “But we have seen a little bit of an uptick in unsheltered homelessness, which is I think what’s being seen downtown. You have more people unsheltered and more visible in our community.”

Haring-Cozzi said most people experiencing homelessness are in shelter, transitional housing or in a safe haven community.

The count will take place from 7-11 p.m.

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