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Veterans face homelessness in Indy, fewer transitional housing beds available

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Hundreds of Hoosier heroes face homelessness in Indianapolis.

Nearly 1100 veterans were homeless in the city last year, according to the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention. Now, there are fewer beds available for them at places that offer transitional housing.

Michael Tran served overseas in the army. When he returned to central Indiana, he faced some obstacles.

"I was going through a few issues that my family was not equipped to deal with," he said. "I went from being a U.S. Army infantry team leader to no one knows who you are or what you’ve been through."

He said he ended up living out is car for a short time. He found shelter at Wheeler Mission and was eventually placed in transitional housing through the Hoosier veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF).

"Without them, I’d be in the cold on the streets right now," Tran said.

HVAF president Brian Copes said there are deep reasons why many veterans struggle with readjusting when they return from service.

"Homelessness is not the problem, it’s a symptom," Copes said.

At the HVAF facility at 10th and Pennsylvania, they provide case management for veterans. Staff connect veterans to treatment for mental health issues and substance abuse.

But, the group was forced to cut back on the number of people they can help. Copes said they are down 13 beds.

"We had 171 beds with a waiting list," Copes said. "Now, we have 158 beds with a waiting list."

According to Copes and CHIP, there are now 83 fewer transitional housing beds available for veterans in Indianapolis due to cuts to federal grants.

Copes said there is some relief on the way after the General Assembly took some action to help veterans, but their current reality means a stricter limit on how many people they can help each night.

"It is going to take some time for the resources to catch up with the requirement, the pent up demand that’s out there," Copes said.

During his state of the city address, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett mentioned a goal of creating supportive, permanent housing for 400 homeless residents. A CHIP spokesperson says about 200 properties have been identified for that purpose. While the homes are not specifically designated for veterans, advocates say the initiative will make a big difference.

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