As our community grows, we experience excitement, anticipation, a bit of fear, and growing pains.
Our neighborhoods are different. We definitely have a different quality of life as the community has grown, and it’s nice to see. I’ve lived downtown for twenty years, and the difference is phenomenal. In this growth a lot has happened but one constant has remained, we have a problem of homelessness and poverty that needs to be addressed.
Every night the Catalyst Rescue Mission (formerly Haven House) is full, still the only homeless shelter in the area. To truly deal with the problem, we need to understand the multifaceted problem. It is not one problem that leads one person to homelessness, it is several. The underlying problem of poverty is huge in the equation. Historically, both locally, statewide and nationally, a large portion (about 49 to 55 percent of homeless people) will be attributable to mental health issues and disorders. related to substance use.
Another big factor is domestic violence, young people coming out of foster care – although with recent changes to this system, the numbers are much lower than they used to be – and early childhood trauma. . There has been a lot of writing on the subject, but the numbers continue to rise.
Affordability is at the root of this. You cannot have Social Security income exclusively and rent comfortably in today’s market. I have called the different apartment communities and one bedroom units start between $ 750 and $ 950 per month and a person has to show double the rental amount in income to qualify for many units. As a result, the poor are left behind.
Homeless people suffer from depression, lack of hope and multiple barriers to ending their homelessness. Some of these obstacles are as real as they were 30 years ago because nothing was done to address these issues then and we still have them, like: transportation.
If someone wants to go to work at the jobs available in River Ridge, they must have a car as there is only one bus that goes there daily. One person we helped find an apartment near Allison Lane does not own a car because she is legally blind in one eye and visually impaired in the other, she was homeless and we avoided shelter by finding the apartment. The income from his job at River Ridge was enough to pay the rent, but getting to work was another problem. She found coworkers to pay who would provide it for her, but called a few months ago because she was behind on rent because of the cost of getting to work, as well as utility bills and medical expenses had hit her hard.
We found resources to help her pay the rent (thanks Ann and Angie) but she explained that the job was difficult to access as she had to leave at 5:30 p.m. to catch it and if she got home she would come home at 7:30 p.m. His solution? She took a ride or the bus to work, but walked home from River Ridge because she got off at 3:30 p.m. and the wait for the bus wouldn’t get her home until 7:30 a.m.
She literally walked home every day and it took her 2.5 hours to do so. She had health problems, but worked and still works. We are following her closely now and have helped organize a round trip and she is paying for it so at the moment she is stable but oh so close to the edge. Poverty is a real problem in this region and across the country. Of the 118,302 people living in Clark County, 9.2% are poor according to statistics from the US Census Bureau. This means that 11,475 people live below the poverty line. Of those, many are employed, but according to the Institute for Working Families in Indianapolis, a family of three in Clark County needs to earn $ 21.02 an hour to be self-sufficient.
While this is accessible for two working parents, we have many single parents who find it out of reach. Many of these parents are marginal or homeless. Their average salary is between 12 and 14 dollars an hour. Housing is out of reach for many of them. While there are currently smaller waiting lists for social housing, there are also fewer vacancies, so getting a subsidized apartment easily is not realistic for many. As of July 31, the moratorium on foreclosures and evictions has expired and there is no answer in sight as to whether there will be another proclamation to help those whose rents have piled up.
We have an opportunity here to develop programs that will help us. We need to look at the money sent here for relief and establish relief programs to prevent even more homeless people from becoming homeless. With the help of COVID, there is an opportunity to think outside the box and develop programs that will truly help people and not keep them trapped in a cycle of poverty. We need to talk.