Council debating funding measures to combat homelessness

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Additional funding for people without a place to live in Indianapolis could soon be on its way.

The money for the Housing Trust Fund, under consideration by city-county council, would help those on the brink of being homeless stay housed and pay for housing for those already without shelter.

Alan Witchey, the executive director of CHIP and a Housing Trust Fund board member, says the money may even be used to help the hard-to-reach chronically homeless.

Although they represent a small segment of the homeless population, mental health issues, addiction or criminal histories make it hard for them to keep a roof over their heads.

Recently, the cycle of homelessness and crime that some people experience has been more evident in downtown Indianapolis.

41-year-old Christopher Bradford is facing charges for a stabbing in downtown on Sunday. It happened right next to the Wheeler Mission at East and Wabash.

Bradford’s reported address is the Horizon House, a different homeless shelter in the city.

And just last week, Anthony Jones, the 25-year-old homeless man accused of attacking two women downtown in late May, raping one, had his first day in court.

Witchey believes these and other reports about crimes committed by homeless people may make people more nervous than they should be.

“There are very few crimes ever committed by homeless people, genuinely homeless people,” said Witchey. “And when you look at a comparison to people that in fact are housed, it’s not even a comparison.”

The truth, he says, is that though there are relatively few who are homeless and do commit violent crimes, those that do are often dealing with mental illness or addiction.

They end up with long rap sheets, going in and out of jail because they have nowhere to go when they get out.

“We have to got to figure it out because you don’t solve a problem by putting someone with a criminal background on the streets,” said Witchey. “All you do is cause more problems because that person is that much more desperate.”

Even for those who are homeless and easier to help, it still takes more money than organizations currently have.

“The number of people who are homeless and the resources aren’t matching up,” said Witchey.

Part of the solution for the city’s homeless population could come from recorder fees. Both proposals under consideration, 133 and 134, would use money from fees paid when you close on a home, to help those who don’t have homes.

“It was initiated over a dozen years ago, as a means of having a constant, sustainable source to address homelessness,” said city-county councilor Vop Osili, who authored the bill.

The Housing Trust Fund is asking for $250,000 already generated by that fund to use now, which councillor Osili says is vital to allowing them to continue their work.

“If parts of our community are falling behind, then our city is falling behind,” said Osili.

Proposal # would make sure the newly-increased recorder fees mandated by state legislation continue going toward the Housing Trust Fund and their causes.

Right now the fund is able to spend about $700,000 a year, but will receive more than a million dollars a year if the proposal is passed.

Even though, that’s not enough to make a dent, Witchey says. But combined with other grants organizations have received and continuing efforts to address homelessness, it will help.

“It’s important to remember that, while this isn’t a lot of resources, every bit matters,” says Witchey. “Every bit counts.”

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