August 16, 2022

Finding good policies to help people experiencing homelessness still a struggle

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Policies to help people experiencing homelessness in Indianapolis can work and a new report explores best practices.

The 2022 Point in Time Count finds the number of people experiencing homelessness in Marion County is down from a decade high count in 2021 but still 9 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The Indiana University Public Policy Institute’s Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy, or CRISP, partners to produce the count.  Policy Analyst Brendan Bow said the new report details what can be done to address the issue. 

“Homelessness is a policy issue, right?” Bow said. “There are choices that we made that got us to where we are today and there are choices we can make that can get us out of where we are today and it’s up to us to make those choices.”

The report compares Indianapolis to similar cities like Nashville, Tennessee and Fort Worth, Texas and finds it in the middle of the pack. Some metros have been able to significantly decrease homelessness with housing first policies. Indianapolis has implemented those types of policies but with mixed success.

A lack of affordable housing at a time when prices are increasing influences permanent housing efforts.

The CRISP policy brief makes recommendations for federal, state and local changes that could help.  Bow pointed to the 2021 Child Tax Credits that cut child poverty by around 40 percent.

On a state level, policies that criminalize homelessness and limit resources could be fixed. City efforts to create more housing options by creating more density and more closely monitoring the homeless population to respond quickly to rehouse people.

Bow said local officials could change single-family zoning in neighborhoods where people want to live.

“By removing that, maybe they might build a small apartment complex, or a duplex, or a triplex, or a fourplex and have the ability to put four houses where previously they could only put one.

The paper also details how racial disparities are still significant in Indianapolis and other cities.

Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at jsheridan@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @JillASheridan.

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