Bitter winter for Hoosiers on the streets

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (INS) – It’s been a cold winter in the Midwest, and it’s not over. Advocates are scrambling to find places to stay for thousands of people who are homeless in the Hoosier State. Comments from Owen Davenport, coordinator for Lighthouse Mission in Terre Haute.

Cold weather continues to grip much of the Midwest, and thousands of people don’t have a warm place to stay on a regular basis. The federal government does an annual homeless count each year, and on one night in 2017 it found about 55-hundred people on the streets in Indiana. Owen Davenport with the Lighthouse Mission in Terre Haute, says rural areas of Indiana have fewer options for people who can’t find a place to stay. He says most people don’t choose to be homeless, and for many, even though they’re working, they’re one or two paychecks away from being homeless.

Davenport says they are struggling, “They’re trying to pay utilities, pay rent, put food on the table. You gotta juggle what do you do, and sometimes you have to make the choice to give up everything and go to the shelter if you have to, until you get back on your feet.”

Last month, the U-S Department of Housing and Urban Development reported homelessness crept up last year across the nation, especially among individuals experiencing long-term chronic homelessness. The good news is that homelessness among families with children has declined more than five percent nationwide since 2016.

Last month HUD awarded more than 19-point-three million dollars to support 95 homeless housing and service programs in the Hoosier state. Davenport says many organizations just provide food and shelter but others, such as Lighthouse Mission, tries to help the homeless turn their situation around.

“One of the things we do here is when someone is living here (and) gets a job, we have them turn part of their money in for holding. It’s their money; we don’t keep any of it. We’re just trying to help them build a nest egg so we’re trying to give them an opportunity to save money and get their lives on track,” said Davenport.

In 2017, there were nearly 600 homeless families in Indiana, and more than 600 veterans and nearly 300 people age 19-to-24 living on the streets. This year’s homeless count happened at the end of January but statistics haven’t been released yet.