By Rachel Terlep
NEW ALBANY, Ind. — How can one end homelessness in Southern Indiana?
It’s a loaded question with no clear-cut answer, but Indiana University Southeast is playing an instrumental role in bringing the discussion to light.
IU Southeast co-hosted a public forum with the News and Tribune titled “Facing Homelessness: A community conversation” on Tuesday night at the Ogle Center. The forum featured a panel of four community experts on the issue. Christine Harbeson, director of Hope Southern Indiana; Kelley Curran, Jeffersonville Homelessness Task Force and planning committee member; Beth Keeney, senior vice president for Community Health Initiatives for LifeSpring Health Systems and IU Southeast alumna; and Leslea Townsend, social services director for St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities, fielded questions from members of the community in attendance.
Dr. Melissa Fry, assistant professor of sociology and director of the Applied Research and Education Center, had played a key part in the News and Tribune’s Facing Homelessness series, and she presented the Vision 2025: A Strategic Plan to End Homelessness in Clark and Floyd Counties report that she authored. The goals of Fry’s report are to make homelessness a temporary, transitional experience supplemented by access to services to help people back on their feet.
“I think it’s very important for regional campuses to be participants in conversations that matter in our community,” Fry said. “We bring a different set of tools to the table, and we can use our tools to collaborate with the community, to be the benefit to the community that we’re intended to be.”
Chancellor Ray Wallace told the audience that IU Southeast has an important role to play in the conversation and that Fry and Dr. Veronica Medina, assistant professor of sociology, are “true applied researchers in our community.”
“It helps the community, but it also helps the university because our students learn a tremendous amount from seeing us engaged in that way,” Fry said. “The students at IU Southeast are the future leaders of this community. Our students stay here, they live here, they become the leaders in these organizations.
“We are this community, so when we engage in these conversations, we’re building the future of this region.”
For a full recap of Tuesday’s “Facing Homelessness” panel, visit the News and Tribune website.