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Homelessness down 9% in Indy, but rising in families, young people, and African Americans

Posted at 11:28 AM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 11:28:14-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Findings from the 2022 annual Indianapolis Homeless Point-in-Time (PIT Count) released Thursday show a 9% fall in homelessness from 2021.

The PIT Count is required by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development.

"It's a snapshot of who's experiencing homelessness in cities across the country," Chelsea Haring-Cozzi said.

Haring-Cozzi is the executive director of the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP). CHIP volunteers counted the number of people experiencing homelessness on Jan. 24.

The analysis showed that there were 1,761 people, down 9% from 2021's 1,928.

"We're happy to see that it's trending back down after one of the highest point in time counts we've had in recent history in 2021 during COVID," Haring-Cozzi said.

Gains in the veteran population were especially notable. The number of veterans counted this year was 35% lower than in 2021.

Haring-Cozzi said there were many programs this year specifically geared towards veterans, and this may be an indicator of their success.

"I think it demonstrates that when we work close-knit in a strategic and targeted way, we can see the impact," she said.

But the gains were not across the board. There was a 27% increase in families with young children, and volunteers found unsheltered children for the first time since 2019.

"Family homelessness is still there. And we're going to see it, I believe, getting increasingly worse as the economy and affordable housing is not available to everybody," Lori Casson said.

Casson is the executive director of Dayspring Center, a shelter for families. She said the demand has been increasing for years now.

"Homeless people are still there. The need is still tremendously great," she said.

The PIT count has a narrow focus - only one night, and only people in certain circumstances. Haring-Cozzi said the study only counts people experiencing literal homelessness, meaning, they're sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation, such as on the streets or in a shelter.

"These counts do not count those who are housing unstable, who might be couch surfing or doubled up. And that's an important distinction to remember," she said.

Casson says that homelessness in families looks different. They can bounce around, or be doubling up.

Those situations aren't counted in the PIT count. She hopes the public doesn't see the 9% decrease and think people are no longer in need.

"I don't want people to see the PIT count and think that there are only 1,700 homeless people in Indianapolis, because that's just not the truth," she said.

The PIT count also takes place in January, when Casson says family shelters are busiest right before school starts.

"The highest demand time is actually in the late summer, where we are now, not in January," she said.

African American families struggled even more than others. The PIT count showed that 82% of people in families with small children experiencing homelessness were Black.

African Americans made up 56% of those counted on Jan. 24, up from 54% last year.

There was also a rise in the number of young people on the streets. People ages 18-24 made up the smallest portion of those counted, but the number nearly doubled during the pandemic.

Even though the struggle is ongoing, Haring-Cozzi said that the PIT count shows that the numbers are going in the right direction. She credits pandemic relief efforts for some of the positive results.

"If there's a silver lining, it forced people to get really focused, to get strategic, to target investment, and I think we have to just keep building on that momentum," she said. "It's positive that it's trending down, but we still have a lot of work to do."

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