November 15-23 is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. With the upcoming holidays, many of us don’t take as much time as we should realizing how lucky we are for all that we have. National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week puts the spotlight on those that are part of an under-served population who are struggling every day and living at or below the poverty guidelines.
For me, nothing quite highlights the need that exists in our community like the realization that the number of families experiencing homelessness, as reported in the Indiana University Public Policy Point-in-Time Count, conducted on January 29, 2014, was a 7% increase from 151 families in 2013 to 161 reported in 2014. This does not include the estimated 3, 027 students in Marion County that identified as living in homeless conditions based on the U.S. Department of Education definition.
This speaks to the often misunderstood population that is typically thought of when homelessness is mentioned. The perception often is that of the single man or woman on the street who appears to be mentally ill and possibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This has been perpetuated by the media, movies or the person that we see as we navigate around our city whether they are at a highway exit or on a major downtown city street corner. Although there are individuals that might be homeless that meet these visual expectations, the reality is that families really are the face of homelessness in the greater Indianapolis area.
Another staggering statistic is that 24% of the individuals reporting in the Point-in-Time Count for 2014 identify as Military Veterans. These two segments of the homeless population together are 41% of our city’s homeless population for just this one night in January. The Indiana University Public Policy Point-in-Time count found that, “Based on national research, estimates suggest that the number who experience homelessness at some point during the year is three to five times the number counted during a point-in-time count. Using this year’s data and count, an estimated 7,543 to 9,485 (PIT results x 5) individuals in Marion County experience homelessness during the course of a year.”
If this social problem tugs at your heart strings or makes you to want to do more, please contact HealthNet’s Homeless Initiative Program. We are coming up on what is predicted to be another frigid winter and these families and individuals are already anxious about what the weather will bring as we transition into the next season. I ask you, is this not the right time to put back just a fraction of your gratitude into the community in which you live? You can also reach out to one of the emergency shelters or homeless service providers in Indianapolis and ask what volunteer or donation needs they might have.
For more information or for other ways to get involved, contact Matt Holland (firstname.lastname@example.org) at HealthNet’s Homeless Initiative Program by calling 317-957-2275 Ext. 4006 or visit us online at www.indyhealthnet.org. To make an online donation to HealthNet’s Homeless Initiative Program, please click here.
Post by Matt Holland
Source: Indiana University Public Policy Institute, 2014 HUD Point-in-Time Count: Homelessness in Indianapolis June 2014 http://policyinstitute.iu.edu/uploads/PublicationFiles/HomelessCount_2013_WEB.pdf