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HVAF seeing increase in veterans experiencing homelessness seeking assistance

Posted at 5:23 PM, Aug 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-28 15:46:39-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The state's largest nonprofit aimed at helping homeless veterans and their families says it's seeing higher demand.

"It's hard for veterans out here and we need help and sometimes asking for help is not something we do very good," said Larry Blackwell.

Larry Blackwell served in the U.S. Navy for six years.

He fell on tough times in 2020, and eventually became homeless.

"In 2020, around when the pandemic was in full-blown pandemic mode I had gotten sick and was in the hospital for a couple of months and when I got out, I immediately came down here. I did my rehab and all of that stuff they started here," Blackwell said.

Helping Veterans and Families (HVAF) houses him and provides him with the resources needed to survive.

"They're great," Blackwell said.

Blackwell says living on the street isn't easy.

"It's very tough. There are a lot of homeless veterans in this city," Blackwell said.

A recent report that tallies Indianapolis' homeless population shows the number of homeless vets dropped by 35%.

While that is good news, the non-profit's CEO Emmy Hildebrand says hundreds still need help.

"So we are looking at anywhere from 450 to probably 700 veterans that will be homeless this year in Indianapolis," Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand said, right now, there is a higher demand for veterans seeking food, clothing and hygiene through the nonprofit.

"Every month our pantry numbers go up a little bit," Hildebrand said.

Finding housing is also a struggle.

"It's hard to find a unit and they are all really expensive and again, when you are struggling paycheck to paycheck and food costs more and utilities are up pretty dramatic, you can't afford most of the units here in Marion County," Hildebrand said.

In October, the construction of a new 61-unit building providing permanent affordable housing is excepted to be complete.

15 units will be set aside for homeless vets.

In the meantime, Hildebrand and Blackwell encourage those suffering to reach out.

"It offers you a place to come in and kind of find yourself and get yourself together," Blackwell said.

Helping Homeless Veterans and Families is always looking for help from the community.

Right now they need:

  • Hygiene products
  • Canned goods
  • Boxed food
  • Clothing in all sizes
  • Volunteers

To donate, you can visit the nonprofit on 64 N. Pennsylvania St. or visit their website.

A spokesperson for the city of Indianapolis tells WRTV:

"Veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to protect and serve our country and it’s vital that we do the same for them. The 2022 Point in Time Count showed a 35 percent decrease in veterans experiencing homelessness across Indianapolis – which is a testament to the success of our housing first approach. The City of Indianapolis celebrates this milestone but recognizes that there's a lot more work to be done. We'll continue to collaborate with the Indianapolis Continuum of Care to ensure that veterans have permanent, safe, and affordable places to live."