City developing plan to help homeless

Business owners have complained about homeless people gathering on Georgia Street.

Indianapolis is developing a long-term plan to help the city's homeless. At the same time, the city is trying to keep homeless people from hanging out - and even camping out - at the former site of Super Bowl Village. Workers pulled all the tables off the west end of Georgia Street Thursday.

Homeless men and women are getting their free lunches at St. John's Church and now getting off Georgia Street. They aren't spending hours eating, hanging out, or scaring pedestrians.

Robyn Getzinger, a downtown office worker, says she and her coworkers have been harassed and, in one case, spit on.

"It is a little more than uncomfortable when people are catcalling or making comments that aren't appreciated," she said.

The city removed all the tables and chairs late Thursday afternoon. Businesses had complained of homeless people congregating here day and night. There's been violence and concerns about use of drugs and alcohol

One group of homeless people got their free sandwich and water and walked away. They admit there have been problems. But as one young woman explained, not all of the homeless deserve the bad rap.

"Even though we are homeless, we shouldn't be punished for someone else's bad behavior," she said.

It's a problem that's moved a block away, but isn't going away. A homeless man finished his lunch and later passed out next to the sidewalk. Dozens of pedestrians passed by. Some stared, some looked away. One tried to wake him up. Another dialed 911 on her cell phone.

The Coalition of Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, is brainstorming a new plan to end homelessness in Indianapolis. Horizon House provides shelter and essential services to the homeless.

"It is very disheartening when I hear of folks getting moved from one location to another," said Melissa Burgess of Horizon House, shaking her head.

Estimates show nearly 6,000 men, women and children need a steady place to live. On a typical night, about 1,600 are sleeping on streets, cars, vacant homes or shelters.

Ten years ago, the city's first Blueprint to End Homelessness found 15,000 people in this city needing a place to live. While there are significantly fewer homeless people today, advocates say their problems and needs are significantly larger.

Agencies are trying to better coordinate, health, mental health and substance abuse services. The rising costs of affordable housing is yet another problem.

"Earnings haven't increased at that same levels. So people are not able to get safe, clean, affordable homes to live in with families," said Michael Butler, CHIP program director.

The new Blueprint to End Homelessness is expected to be complete in March. It will try to solve an issue much bigger than Georgia Street but, like the renovated downtown attraction, runs through the heart of a city.