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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Homelessness in Indy at 10-year high

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The number of people experiencing homelessness was at a 10-year high when volunteers counted in January, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention announced July 28.

Volunteers counted 1,928 people experiencing homelessness, 340 more than in 2020. That represents an 18% increase.

The coalition conducts a count annually as part of a mandate from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy at IUPUI produces a report.

The count was different this year because of the pandemic. Volunteers worked from Jan. 18-22 and asked people where they stayed on the night of the 18th. The count usually happens in one night.

A closer look at the numbers

People who identify as Black or African American continue to make up a disproportionate number of people experiencing homelessness. They accounted for almost 54% of the total count this year, which is about the same as it was in 2020.

People experiencing homelessness can be part of three categories: sheltered, unsheltered or other (meaning they might be staying with a friend or relative).

There were 263 people unsheltered this year and 1,665 who were sheltered. The number of sheltered homeless is typically much higher than unsheltered because many people stay in emergency shelters or transitional housing. The temperature can also affect how many people are unsheltered.

Volunteers didn’t observe any children (younger than 18) in unsheltered locations this year, which was also the case last year. There were 268 children experiencing homelessness in total.

When it comes to only school-age children, 58% of those counted were Black or African American. The school-age homelessness count is done differently because the methodology was established by the U.S. Department of Education, which has a more expansive definition of homelessness than HUD.

The most common age range for someone experiencing homelessness was 50-61, followed closely by 35-49.

How COVID-19 affected data

Data for the 2021 count is not as detailed as normal because volunteers interacted with people for a shorter amount of time.

There isn’t data this year on people’s experiences with common barriers such as mental illness, substance abuse and medical conditions. Volunteers also didn’t collect data on how long someone had been homeless, which means there isn’t an updated look at chronic homelessness.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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