CHIP — New plan to address homelessness in Indianapolis unveiled

“New plan to address homelessness in Indianapolis unveiled,” FOX 59, Gabby Gonzalez, July 19 2018

A new plan that aims to help the most vulnerable Indianapolis residents was unveiled Thursday afternoon. The five-year strategy calls for additional housing and resources for the homeless.

The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention led the effort to create the “Indianapolis Community Plan to End Homelessness.” According to the more than 30-page report, there is a need to optimize the crisis response system to reduce the length of time people are forced to live on the streets. City leaders are committed to creating 1,100 more permanent supportive housing units.

“This doesn’t require new sources of funding or tax increases,” said Jeff Bennett, Deputy Mayor of Community Development. “This is really reallocation of resources that are in the system including the housing in the system.”

CHIP executive director Alan Witchey said there is also a focus on finding shelters that are willing to work with people who are battling addiction or mental health issues.

“We know about a third of people who are homeless have some kind of mental health disorder or substance abuse disorder,” Witchey said. “So, that’s quite a lot.”

He said treatment can be too expensive or tough to access. They want to provide more wraparound services so people can get on a path to stability.

While the plan lays out clear goals, there have been similar roll-outs in the past. FOX59 asked what sets this five-year plan apart from its predecessors.

“It has responsible parties and deadlines,” Bennett said. “So often, we create plans that have no real accountability for who is going to do the work and this plan has those deadlines and responsible parties including the city.”

The announcement of the new plan comes as some downtown residents report seeing more need for resources among the homeless. The perception comes even as the actual number of homeless individuals citywide has decreased slightly from 2017 to 2018, according to CHIP.

“When you go downtown, for instance, it really does appear as if homelessness is growing,” Witchey said. “You see more people and you see people on the circle maybe in ways you’ve never seen before.”

Witchey said that is due, in part, to homeless camps being disbanded and many shelters being full.

“On any given day downtown, you’ll see 30 to 50 people visibly homeless,” he said. “We know also today, on any given day, there would be about 1700 people that are homeless [citywide]. It’s only two to three percent of the population that you’re seeing down there on the circle downtown.”

The new plan also identifies four special populations that have the highest rates of homelessness – chronically homeless, veterans, youth and families. Stakeholders have assessed the best ways to assist each of these groups.

“It really will take everyone in the community if we want to find solutions,” Witchey said.

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The city wants to launch a new employment program for people who panhandle or sleep outside; spend $150,000 on rental assistance for recipients of housing vouchers; and support services offered by the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, such as help with past-due utility bills.

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Up to $250,000 would go toward permanent housing solutions — serving an estimated 500 people each year, according to the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, also known by its acronym CHIP — as well as direct services for homeless people downtown.