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United Way homelessness initiative

United Way leading charge to reduce homelessness in Bartholomew County

Homelessness should be rare, brief and non-recurring. 

United Way is leading the social services sector to partner with local government, social service non-profits, individuals, and businesses to reduce the number of people who are homeless and to ensure that homelessness in our neighbors is rare, brief, and non-recurring.  

Reducing homelessness in our community will take everyone working together to ensure our neighbors have what they need to get permanent shelter and find self-sufficiency. We will depend on everyone in Bartholomew County to help us reduce the amount of people in our community who lack permanent housing.

Anyone who needs access to resources at any time, including for basic needs, such as shelter, can go here: 

How you can get involved:

Thank you to everyone who attended the homelessness forum on June 12th. We are working on distilling all this insightful work into a document that will help us discern the next steps and come to a shared understanding of homelessness.

During the forum, we made substantial progress in several areas:

Access to Resources: We identified key barriers that our unhoused neighbors face. Your insights and suggestions will help us create a more inclusive and supportive system.

Loving and Respecting Our Unhoused Neighbors: We engaged in meaningful discussions about fostering a compassionate and respectful approach towards our unhoused neighbors. Your contributions highlighted the importance of empathy and understanding in addressing homelessness.

Respectful Language: We explored the power of language in shaping perceptions and interactions. By adopting respectful and person-first language, we can change the narrative around homelessness and promote dignity and respect for all individuals.

Learn more about homelessness:

What is homelessness?

Homelessness in our community can be tricky to see and define. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has defined homelessness using these terms:

-Literal Homelessness: A person who has no shelter and who lives in tents or sleeps on the ground, or who utilizes an emergency shelter such as Brighter Days.

-Nearly Homeless: People who are expected to lose their permanent shelter within two weeks – such as those facing eviction.

-Youth Homeless: Youth who couch surf with friends.

-Domestic violence: Families who are homeless after fleeing an unsafe situation at home.

Most people who find themselves homeless do so temporarily and can utilize the social services sector and other resources to quickly get back on their feet by addressing the issue that caused their initial loss of stable housing.

Others find themselves chronically homeless, with barriers such as mental health issues and lack of adequate healthcare and nutrition compounding daily that makes it increasingly difficult to change their situation.

Causes of homelessness

The causes of homelessness are complex, especially for individuals who find themselves chronically homeless. The most common causes of homelessness include job loss, divorce, medical crises, mental health issues, and substance abuse disorders.

Many personal and societal factors come into play that lead to a person or family finding themselves in a place where they do not have a permanent address.

Some of the most common causes include:

·       Shortage of affordable housing

·       Economic challenges such as unemployment and low wages

·       Mental health issues

·       Substance abuse disorders

·       Family breakdowns

·       Domestic violence

·       Trauma

·       Systemic poverty

·       Involvement in the criminal justice system

·       Eviction

·       Lack of personal support networks

The amount of people who are chronically homeless without a factor such as substance abuse disorder or mental health issues is believed to be small.

United Way’s solution

Holistically removing barriers that have caused homelessness will take the entire community to work together to solve this complex issue.

United Way of Bartholomew County has access to the very best in social services and other resources that help position us to take on this critical community challenge.

Cities all across the country such as Milwaukee, Wisc, Rockford, Ill, and Freemont County, Colo, have effectively ended homelessness in their communities using proven social service strategies and partnerships.

Our proposal takes a complex issue like homelessness and utilizes partnerships with nearly everyone in Bartholomew County to take a holistic approach to breaking down the issues and barriers that have caused homelessness in our community.

The proposal includes:

Step 1: Work together to come to a shared understanding and shared community understanding of homelessness in our community by getting public input from everyone – including people who have experienced homelessness.

Step 2: Implement five modifications to the current social service delivery system to streamline the process of getting people back onto their feet and into stable housing and a stable job.

·       Establish a coordinated entry system for people experiencing homelessness

·       Establish a coordinated assessment tool to be used by frontline workers who interact with people experiencing homelessness.

·       Implement a Homeless Response Team that meets weekly and composed of service providers who work together to problem-solve and get people back into stable housing.

·       Design a system to proactively help people facing eviction or foreclosure.

·       Evaluate, design, and test a “Street Social Worker” pilot program.

Step 3: Provide targeted recommendations on investments designed to reduce homelessness in our community.

Step 4:Robust communication with stakeholders and the public.

Your input and support as a community member will be vital as well work together to ensure everyone in our community has stable housing and can reach self-sufficiency.