Annual count of homeless individuals in Marion County shows a 21% jump in 2021

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MARION COUNTY, Ind. — The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) has released the findings of the 2021 Marion County Homeless Point-in-Time (PIT) Count.

The annual count was done in collaboration with the Indiana University Public Policy Institute’s Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy (CRISP.) It’s meant to give a depiction of sheltered and unsheltered persons experiencing homelessness in Indianapolis.

Typically, the headcount is conducted on a single night in late January. But due to the pandemic, CHIP did the count over five days from January 18 to January 22 and utilized a shortened survey for unsheltered interviews.

Results

The number of homeless individuals counted this year was 1,928 — a 21% increase from the 1,588 individuals counted in 2020.

Here’s a further breakdown of the total of 1,928.

Researchers from CRISP believe at least some of the increase in people experiencing homelessness in 2021 may be attributed to expanding the length of the count to five days.

Another change in methodology that may have impacted the final number is the absence of trained community volunteers to conduct the count. Instead, CHIP used professional blended street outreach (PBSO) and faith-based street outreach teams.

This year, there was also a significant increase in the number of beds available in emergency shelters. Specifically, there were 786 additional beds allowing many more people who were experiencing homelessness during the PIT Count to take shelter inside and be counted.

“This last year has only reaffirmed the fact that safe, stable, permanent housing is a public health response and a social justice issue,” said Chelsea Haring-Cozzi, CHIP executive director.

“Our city and community partners came together in amazing ways during the COVID-19 pandemic to execute a coordinated crisis response to keep those experiencing homelessness safe and healthy by expanding non-congregate sheltering options and cultivating greater resource coordination for those living unsheltered. Yet, the PIT count highlights the increased need for equitable housing interventions and services, and we must remain steadfast in our collective commitment to expand access and scale housing choices and to keep racial equity at the center of this work. It also invites us to dig deeper and move toward a more inclusive, nimble, and efficient rehousing system.”

CHIP says the annual count is required for communities to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Additional key findings

Other key findings in the 2021 Marion County Point-in-Time Count:
• The number of unsheltered individuals increased to 263 from a five-year low of 108 in 2019, although a change in methodology likely contributed to the increase.
• Those identifying as Black or African American continue to be disproportionately represented in the homeless population at 54%.
• Of all youth eligible for homeless services in schools through the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act, 59% were Black.
• This year marks a continued trend in the increase of individuals older than 62 experiencing homelessness.

A shortened survey was used in 2021 to minimize health risk and reduce interaction time with volunteers. CHIP says because of this, some data is missing leaving researchers unable to analyze how long someone had been homeless and whether there was the presence of a disabling condition (substance abuse, mental illness, chronic health condition, or disability.)

“The past year presented challenges for all Indianapolis residents, but particularly our neighbors experiencing homelessness,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.

“The 2021 PIT Count demonstrates there is much more work to be done, but we are confident in the strength of our Indianapolis Continuum of Care’s Community Plan to End Homelessness. We will continue to work closely with the City’s coalition of service providers to close gaps in systems of care, and we remain focused on removing barriers to rehousing and finding every resident a permanent home.”

The Indianapolis Continuum of Care’s Community Plan to End Homelessness is a five-year plan with the goal of ensuring that by 2023, no individual or family in Indianapolis will spend more than 30 days without a permanent, safe, affordable place to live.

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