September 26, 2019

Mayoral Candidates Share Plans to Combat Homelessness

Mayoral candidates incumbent Democrat Joe Hogsett and Republican State Sen. Jim Merritt addressed their plans to address homelessness in a moderated discussion. - Darian Benson/WFYI

Mayoral candidates incumbent Democrat Joe Hogsett and Republican State Sen. Jim Merritt addressed their plans to address homelessness in a moderated discussion.

Darian Benson/WFYI

Indianapolis Mayoral incumbent Democrat Joe Hogsett and Republican challenger State Sen. Jim Merritt both presented plans to combat homelessness at a forum Wednesday night.

The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, CHIP, gave the candidates five questions -- including how they would address racial disparity in the barriers to housing. 

Hogsett says, to bridge the gap, the city needs criminal justice reform.

“We address homelessness and racial disparities in homelessness by addressing criminal justice,” Hogsett says.  “Making sure that our holistic criminal justice reforms are implemented, that keep people out of jail and in our population. By providing services for addiction, substance abuse, mental health and diagnosed mental illness.”

Merritt says the city needs a better relationship with the black community. He says he will listen.

“The goal of a Merritt administration is to really to, early on, is to recognize what is going on the African American community,” Merritt says. “And allow that coordination, allow that collaboration and understand exactly how we can help them.”

Every year, CHIP does a one night count of homeless individuals in Indianapolis on a single night. This year’s count found 61 percent of homeless people in the city are African American.

The candidates were also asked how they would effectively end homelessness among veterans.

Hogsett says he’s looking at solutions that worked in other states.

“Doubling down on a housing first strategy is the way to go,” Hogsett says. “I believe that fervently. That’s embodied in our community plan to end homelessness.”

The housing first strategy is increasingly popular across the country and says people need stable housing before they can successfully treat problems like drug abuse and mental illness.

Merritt says there needs to be more collaboration between the city and veteran groups.

“We need to redouble our efforts on our partnerships with all the different veterans groups and allow them a voice in the mayor’s office and the city,” Merritt says.

According to CHIP, 17 percent of the city’s homeless population are veterans.

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