THIS JUST IN: Fight against homelessness gets a $7.1 funding boost

The pandemic and its subsequent impact upon Downtown has brought the homelessness issue to the forefront – including its impact on the perception of public safety. And much of the resulting frustration has been directed at the Hogsett Administration.

But the city responded earlier this week by teaming with the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention & Prevention and the Merchants Affordable Housing Corp. to take a $7.1 million swing at the problem.

The funding, courtesy of the federal CARES Act, will be used toward rapid re-housing programming for those currently experiencing homelessness. A city press release noted that, as service providers in Indianapolis continue to seek creative solutions that get vulnerable populations off the streets and out of congregate emergency shelters during COVID-19, rapid re-housing will serve as an important and long-term solution to keep people healthy and safe by providing rental assistance and services.

Hogsett said the $7.1 million in CARES Act funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “is a significant boost to our existing COVID-19 Relief programming and numerous efforts concerned with homelessness. This is a strong step toward securing housing for our city’s most vulnerable neighbors. I’m thankful to CHIP and Merchants Affordable Housing Corp. for their partnership during this crucial time.”

Rapid re-housing provides up to 12 months of rental assistance and services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Goals include helping people obtain housing quickly, increase self- sufficiency, and stay housed long-term. It is offered without preconditions (such as employment, income, absence of criminal record, or sobriety) and the resources and services provided are typically tailored to the needs of the person. Rental assistance will make up 70% of the program, supportive services 20%, and administrative costs will take up 10% of the funding.

Said Chelsea Haring-Cozzi, executive director of CHIP, “Living unhoused is incompatible with staying healthy and safe in the midst of this public health crisis. We have an amazing opportunity to leverage this funding and the dedication of our provider community to secure and support hundreds of households through permanent housing. Creating a rehousing infrastructure with Merchants Affordable Housing will allow our partners to do this work at scale and to build a robust way of expanding inventory, identifying units, and engaging with landlords.”

In July the City of Indianapolis announced that eight local organizations and the Indy Continuum of Care would be allocated $2.7 million from the CARES Act. The competitive application process prioritized funding to rapidly rehouse persons living in non-congregate shelter housing and help operate emergency non-congregate shelters for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those organizations are ASPIRE Indiana Health; Coburn Place Safe Haven; Damien Center; Horizon House; HVAF of Indiana Inc.; Stopover, Inc.; Dayspring Center, and Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis.

Earlier that same month, city officials announced that up to $650,000 would be awarded to Horizon House to expand permanent supportive housing services for unsheltered individuals and families through the Housing to Recovery Fund.

“We look forward to partnering with the City of Indianapolis to support vulnerable residents by administering funds and ensuring timely payments to owners,” said Janine Betsey, president and CEO of Merchants Affordable Housing Corp. “We have the capacity and expertise to build a system-facing team with expertise to engage landlords, hold units, expand inventory, leverage flexible funds to rapidly overcome barriers, and keep people in stable, permanent housing.”