Article Summary

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) has awarded more than $3 million in grants to combat rural homelessness. The funding, which comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will support three projects in nine Hoosier counties over the next three years.

IHCDA says each of the projects leveraged housing resources through a collaborative application for Housing Stability Vouchers to HUD in partnership with IHCDA.

IHCDA Executive Director Jacob Sipe says the grants and vouchers combine to create an innovative package of resources to help communities provide housing and supportive services to people in need.

“Our community partners will be able to utilize these funds as they provide localized assistance for our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Sipe. “This funding helps fill the gaps to improve outcomes for people facing housing instability.”

The following projects were awarded funding:

  • Jackson County Unsheltered Housing ($918,000): The housing project in Jackson County will serve up to 15 one-, two- and three-bedroom households. In addition to housing, a partnership between Housing Services Inc., Anchor House, and Schneck Medical Center will offer medical, psychiatric, and recovery services to those in the program.
  • Lafayette Transitional Housing Rapid Rehousing ($1.2 million): This new rapid rehousing project will serve up to 40 one-, two- and three-bedroom households. The project will serve seven counties in central/western Indiana and will utilize a partnership with InWell and Phoenix Paramedics to
    expand healthcare resources available to clients in the program.
  • Porter Starke Services Permanent Supportive Housing ($925,000) This new supportive housing project will serve up to 10 one-bedroom households. The project will focus on providing housing to disabled individuals experiencing chronic homelessness and will be the first supportive housing
    project located in Starke County.

These projects fill a much-needed void in these communities. The average wait time to receive a Section 8 housing voucher is two years.¹ People need assistance now. The voucher allotments are below average rent in nearly all areas, so selection is extremely limited. Besides low-income housing being hard to find, it is
even harder to find properties that accommodate large families. Three-bedroom rentals are scarce. We must send a special thank-you to these mentioned communities for delving into such overwhelming projects.

For we individuals alone, sometimes there are problems so big in society we don’t know where to begin to help. Homelessness is one of those issues. With less than 1% of the population known to be homeless, do we regard this issue as too small for our personal attention, or do we simply not know where to begin to
help? We are bothered by homelessness when it interferes with our lives, such as vagrancy and begging. Overall, we are not in-tuned to the silence of homelessness in shelters, soup kitchens, camp sites, public transportation, etc. Sometimes even when we suspect hunger or suffering, we don’t reach out for fear of offending or that it may take up too much of our own precious time to help.

If the person is dealing with addictions, we may be concerned for our safety. If the person is dirty, we may be concerned they will ruin or soil our things. If the person is a victim of abuse, what if their abuser comes after us for helping. If the person is sick, we may be concerned with contagions. We build our homes and families with a fair amount of protectors built in around us. So, there is no judgment here, just a self-check to see if we can find the time and reach out of our comfort zones to help those less fortunate.

For leaders of our communities and administrators of programs, are we asking the populations we serve what they need or are we presuming what they need? It is interesting as I know of an organization who bought a house. The intent of services delivered from the house, was to insure that washers and dryers were in place, so people with no, or limited shelter, could wash their clothes. One room was a library so people could read while waiting for their clothes to finish. And, sometimes special classes or crafts or cooking were offered as well. There was a food pantry and clothing room supported by community donations to  supplement the clients’ needs.

Unfortunately, it took a lot of manpower to route through the donations as some of the community donors looked at this as a way to deposit their old things as opposed to supporting the actual needs of the clients. I often thought if people donated one hour of their time as well as the goods, they would see for themselves
the actual needs and not simply suppose.

Two big questions to ask ourselves is, “Is homelessness disproportionate to the demographics of our overall community?” and, “Is it far more representative of our marginalized populations?” One-size fits all thinking must cease to exist. Those who represent the majority, must consider the needs of the entire
community and not assume that everyone has assimilated to the majority plan. It’s essential to spend time with every demographic within our community to understand what life is like in the community for them. By asking, we learn. By listening we understand. By understanding we serve everyone better.

Here is a snapshot of homelessness in the U.S.:

While these overall data may not reflect your respective community, it is important to look closely at what is trending in your community as marginalized members of your community are most likely affected by homelessness at a disproportionate number than the majority white population. Understanding how the Fair Housing Act came to be may help us better understand why this work is so important, especially to people of color as well as our veterans:

On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which was meant as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 1968 Act expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap and family status. Title VIII of the Act is also known as the Fair Housing Act (of 1968).

The enactment of the federal Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968, came only after a long and difficult journey. From 1966-1967, Congress regularly considered the fair housing bill, but failed to garner a strong enough majority for its passage. However, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson utilized this national tragedy to urge for the bill’s speedy Congressional approval. Since the 1966 open housing marches in Chicago, Dr. King’s name had been closely associated with the fair housing legislation. President Johnson viewed the Act as a fitting memorial to the man’s life work, and wished to have the Act passed prior to Dr. King’s funeral in Atlanta.

Another significant issue during this time period was the growing casualty list from Vietnam. The deaths in Vietnam fell heaviest upon young, poor African-American and Hispanic infantrymen. However, on the home front, these men’s families could not purchase or rent homes in certain residential developments on account of their race or national origin. Specialized organizations like the NAACP, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the GI Forum, and the National Committee Against Discrimination In Housing lobbied hard for the Senate to pass the Fair Housing Act and remedy this inequity. Senators Edward Brooke and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts argued deeply for the passage of this legislation. In particular, Senator Brooke,
the first African-American ever to be elected to the Senate by popular vote, spoke personally of his return from World War II and inability to provide a home of his choice for his new family because of his race.²

The last piece of legislation President John F. Kennedy signed was the Community Mental Health Act, which helped transform the way people with mental illness are treated and cared for in the United States. Signed on Oct. 31, 1963, weeks before Kennedy was assassinated, the legislation aimed to build mental health centers accessible to all Americans so that those with mental illnesses could be treated while working and living at home, rather than being kept in neglectful and often abusive state institutions, sometimes for years on end. Kennedy said when he signed the bill that the legislation to build 1,500 centers would mean the population of those living in state mental hospitals — at that time more than 500,000 people — could be cut in half. In a special message to Congress
earlier that year, he said the idea was to successfully and quickly treat patients in their own communities and then return them to “a useful place in society.”

With Kennedy’s untimely death, this was left to President Johnson who relied on the Medicare and Medicaid Act, known as the Social Security Amendments of 1965, which he signed into law to enable this to move forward. Hospitals/asylums were closed, but the community mental health centers would not be addressed until block grants were created by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s. Again, our marginalized populations were affected. Until we take the time to learn about mental illness and addictions, we cannot take the needs of these people seriously and provide the best housing and supports they need to facilitate recovery.

This is why these rural grants of Jackson County, Lafayette and Porter-Starke are so important. Indiana ranks 40 among all states for homelessness, but if even one person in your community needs assistance with housing and other essentials for quality of life, we need to address the reasons and help and work to end homelessness.

“When you judge someone, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa
“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn