JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind.–A year-long research and planning effort found that solutions to homelessness in Clark and Floyd counties are within reach. The research, commissioned by the Jeffersonville Homelessness Task Force, funded by the City of Jeffersonville and conducted by the Applied Research and Education Center at Indiana University Southeast, produced several key findings and concluded with cautious optimism that an end to functional homelessness is possible if a coalition of public and non-profit organizations can coordinate their efforts.
The final report on the research, Vision 2025: A Strategic Plan to End Homelessness in Clark and Floyd Counties, was released Thursday. Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said, “Many of the community resources we need to address this problem are already in place, now we just need the will to come together as a community and organize those resources effectively.”
The report provides a sobering look at the problem of homelessness in Clark and Floyd Counties. On any given night 250-300 people sleep in emergency shelters, if they are lucky enough to find openings, or in one of the area’s many homeless camps. Hundreds more teeter on the brink of homelessness, sleeping on the couches of friends or family, having no fixed place to call home.
The report’s author, Dr. Melissa Fry, Executive Director of the Applied Research and Education Center, uses estimates from around the country to determine that each homeless person residing in Clark and Floyd Counties costs taxpayers more than $20,000 for an estimated total of $5 million per year. The individual cost balloons to nearly $50,000 for the chronically homeless who are more likely to wind up in local jails, emergency rooms and other treatment facilities.
These costs, Fry says, can be reduced by half with effective coordination of community resources and by investing in programs that prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.
The research and planning took a year to complete. Statistical data from municipal, state and federal agencies helped identify the true extent of the problem while interviews, focus groups, surveys and community forums documented the perspectives and experiences of service providers, service recipients and local community members.
The report suggests specific and concrete actions that should be implemented:
- Establish the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana (HCSI) to facilitate implementation and provide case management to those not served by existing organizations and programs.
- Establish shared intake, assessment, and referral system to reduce time and resources spent on these processes, and expedite access to services.
- Improve transitions to housing from criminal justice, foster care, rehab, and health care facilities to ensure that no one is discharged into homelessness.
- Increase access to affordable housing.
- Provide a day shelter site where homeless individuals can access services and information to help them return to stable housing.
- Develop a coordinated white flag system so we are prepared for extreme weather and other emergencies.
- Remove barriers to health, mental health, substance abuse treatment, education and job training to help people remain in housing and, in the event of homelessness, to quickly restore stability.
The report concludes that these actions require a community-wide effort: “Implementation of the plan will require the establishment of a new coalition organization, ongoing coordination, effective community-wide communication, and enduring commitment from local residents, government agencies, philanthropies, nonprofit organizations and the business community.”
The full report is available at www.ius.edu/end-homelessness