On January 29, 2013, the Indiana University Public Policy Institute (PPI) and the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) conducted a point-in- time count of persons experiencing homelessness in Marion County. Although it is only required biennially by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), CHIP conducts this count annually. The data collected from the point-in-time counts are used by service providers, policy makers, and community funders to inform planning and program development. This issue brief discusses the details and background of the count as well as findings and thoughts for policymakers and service providers concerned with improving services for the Indianapolis community’s homeless population.
Summary of Findings
Among the general findings from the study, of those experiencing homelessness:
The majority are young females (usually with families) and older, single males.
The majority are African American. Whites are unsheltered more than any other ethnic group.
One quarter (25 percent) are employed.
The majority (77 percent) have a high school education or higher.
Although there was a decrease of 15 percent in the number of families, there still is a significant portion of families without permanent housing. And there is an increase in the average size of the families experiencing homelessness.
While some receive various forms of social security, enrollment in aid programs is relatively low.
Chronic substance abuse is the primary medical condition, followed by mental illness.
While 18 percent of the overall housing population had a felony conviction, the rate doubled among unsheltered (36 percent)
Results from the study indicate Indianapolis has improved in certain key measurements of homelessness:
Overall population. Indianapolis showed a three percent decrease in the overall population of those experiencing homelessness since the last count, which was conducted in January of 2012.
Fewer live on the street. There was a substantial decrease, 31 percent, in persons living on the street (unsheltered).
Fewer families are homeless. The study found a 15 percent decrease in families experiencing homelessness in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis fared well in improving the situation for many people experiencing homelessness, however results from the study indicate some areas that need more attention:
Veterans. Although the total number of veterans decreased by nine percent this year over last year, since 2010, there has been a 21 percent increase overall in the number of veterans in Indianapolis who are experiencing homelessness. Locally, veterans are increasing as a percentage of the overall population of those experiencing homelessness; they now make up a quarter of the homeless population.
Comparable cities. Although Indianapolis is doing better than the national average— 17.9 persons experiencing homelessness per every 10,000 people in our population vs. the national average of 20.2—the city is not doing as well as comparable Midwestern cities like Columbus, OH and Milwaukee.
Infrastructure. Stable housing is a critical first step for those experiencing homelessness. However, access is difficult due to waiting lists, backlogs or requirements such as sobriety, and access to public transportation remains an issue.