INDIANAPOLIS - Leaders trying to reduce the city's homeless population got news Thursday that the population has risen over the last year. The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) released its 2017 Point-in-Time count, which revealed the population jumped 10 percent compared to last year.
The count, which was done on Jan. 25, increased to 1,787 people from last year's 1,619. It's an increase of 168 people and the highest overall number since 2014 when 1,897 people were counted.
“Indianapolis is seeing an increase in homeless but it’s among people who haven’t experienced it before," said CHIP executive director Alan Witchey. “It’s low-income, often times, families with children, many times two or three children.”
The PIT count, designed to give the city an "average" number of homeless persons who are sheltered in emergency shelter, transitional housing and safe havens on a single night, is one method utilized by CHIP to help understand the number of homeless individuals and families in Marion County.
For years, CHIP leaders believed the city's true homeless population total was between six and eight thousand people. This year's count included help from a national researcher who helped find a more accurate estimate. The results found that the city's actual homeless population in a year is actually closer to 12,000 individuals.
Based on these figures, Indianapolis would have to create 2,000 supportive housing options a year to end homelessness in the city.
On Wednesday night, during the State of the City address, Mayor Joe Hogsett issued a challenge to curb the problem.
"I am challenging our city and committing this administration to providing supportive housing for an additional 400 homeless residents within the next 12 months," Hogsett said.
There are a handful of organizations already tackling the issue.
Adult and Child Health has 40 clients who were placed in permanent housing.
The Horizon House placed 90 homeless individuals in 2016, with most of them being placed in the Penn Place Apartments, a re-modeled hotel used to house homeless individuals.
"We know providing housing is one of the most important tools to increase the success rate of someone experience homelessness," said Witchey. "Ninety-three percent of those re-housed remain housed one year later, and 94 percent of those that receive homeless prevention do not fall into homelessness over the coming year."
The issue of getting more homeless off the streets is there isn't enough affordable housing or funding to put a roof over everyone's head.
“When I think of the number of affordable housing, we lack having places for individuals to go," said Horizon House executive director Teresa Wessel, who applauded the mayor's challenge. "Our neighbors who have income, some type of social security, a job, something they still can’t find a place to live that is affordable.”
CHIP continues to analyze the data from the 2017 count and will release a more comprehensive report later this year.