INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly 2,000 people in Marion County are experiencing either sheltered or unsheltered homelessness in 2021, according to the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention's point-in-time assessment. The highest in 10 years.
Where the unhoused population is up 21% in Marion County and the city of Indianapolis, the number of unsheltered residents rose drastically to 41.4% since 2020.
The impacts of the pandemic and methodology changes are "likely" the reasoning behind the higher numbers, CHIP stated in a release.
The data in this year's PIT count was conducted in five days in January instead of one, due to COVID-19 restrictions. Additionally, CHIP states, the survey was "shortened" for unsheltered interviews and could be the reason for an increase in Marion County's homeless population.
Through the five-day count, an additional 786 beds were made available in emergency shelters throughout the county and trained community volunteers were not utilized.
Although not every city across the country committed to an unsheltered count in 2021, CHIP said it chose to conduct both a sheltered and unsheltered count — knowing the numbers would be higher — because a snapshot of those who experienced homelessness during a pandemic was needed.
The PIT count is provided to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It helps ensure funding for programs and resources, and also identifies any barriers certain populations experience when it comes to finding permanent housing.
For instance, this year the PIT count found that 54% of Indy's homeless population is disproportionately Black or African American. The homeless youth population that schools provided assistance to was 59% Black. And, the number of individuals 62 years old or older experiencing homelessness is increasing.
This last year has only reaffirmed the fact that safe, stable, permanent housing is a public health response and a social justice issue. Our city and community partners came together in amazing ways during the COVID-19 pandemic to execute a coordinated crisis response to keep those experiencing homelessness safe and healthy by expanding non-congregate sheltering options and cultivating greater resource coordination for those living unsheltered. Yet, the PIT count highlights the increased need for equitable housing interventions and services, and we must remain steadfast in our collective commitment to expand access and scale housing choices and to keep racial equity at the center of this work. It also invites us to dig deeper and move toward a more inclusive, nimble, and efficient rehousing system. We remain confident and committed to the strategies laid out in the Community Plan to End Homelessness and to meeting the monumental opportunity before us to leverage federal and philanthropic funding to provide equitable housing and services at the scale needed in Indianapolis.”
Over the last five years, tens of millions of dollars have been provided to several different initiatives to help tackle Indianapolis' homelessness intervention and prevention efforts.
Indy's homeless population had started to see a decline in 2019. The 2019 count revealed 1,567 people experiencing homelessness was lower than the 2018 count by 7%.
The 2020 count slightly rose, with an additional 11 people experiencing homelessness. This year, a total of 1,928 people were counted. A sharper rise compared to the last few years.
Below you can see the entire report from CHIP, in partnership with the Indiana University Public Policy Institute's Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy.