Indianapolis Addressing Homelessness Issue

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Traveling around downtown Indianapolis, chances are you’ve seen the homeless. Sitting or sleeping under bridges and on sidewalks as signs begging for help or money rest next to them.

Whether their predicament stems from mental illness, addiction, abuse or a disability, many homeless citizens of Indianapolis are not getting the help they need. .

According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, Indiana ranks in the middle in homeless population compared to the other 50 states. From 2017 to 2018 the homeless population of Marion County dropped from 1,783 to 1,682 according to the IU Public Policy Institute (PPI).

Even with the decrease, Indianapolis has shown they are addressing this problem. The city began in August 2018 by launching a five-year plan by partnering with the Coalition For Homelessness Intervention & Prevention (CHIP) and the Indianapolis Continuum of Care to end homelessness in the community.

That’s not the only solution Indianapolis is implementing. They have studied the results of a panhandler program that Albuquerque, NM started back in 2015 called There’s a Better Way. Based off the success Albuquerque saw, they have begun to launch a similar program by partnering with Downtown Indy, Inc. and the Horizon House.

There’s a Better Way was originally started in Albuquerque to reach out to panhandlers, many of which are homeless. The program pays the panhandlers $9 an hour to do beautification projects around the city like picking up trash and pulling weeds.

Picture of the Albuquerque There's a Better Way van that transports them to their jobs for the day." From the groups website.

They started out small, but now the program has become world famous and has grown to paying 80-90 people. When their work is done they receive an envelope with the cash they earned that day. They also have a van for transportation and drops them off at a homeless center to connect them with the help they need.

Starting with a $50,000 budget given by the city council, the program has grown to a budget of $365,000.

The Indianapolis programs funding began as Proposal 88 and was approved on Feb. 6. On Feb. 25 the $300,000 budget was approved. Half of the money would go to employing the panhandlers, the other half would cover the transportation and logistics. The money comes from Indianapolis extending parking meter times to 11 p.m.

The program is more than employing the homeless. The program is about getting the homeless connected with the help they need, giving them the opportunity to develop skills and giving them back their dignity.

Horizon House Executive Director Teresa Wessel loves the idea and believes it can impact the homeless population.

“If this may be the first job that someone has had in a long time, it can help them with those soft skills," she said. "If they learn some skills and then they can go and get a more long-term job, one that is life-sustaining for them, then I think this can be a real boost to that self-confidence to get back there and making a difference and just being part of the community again.”


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