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New report finds Marion County homelessness increased 21% in last year

Researchers believe at least some of the increase can be attributed to a different methodology used for the annual count.

INDIANAPOLIS — Results from the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, used to calculate the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Marion County, are out. The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) and the IU Public Policy Institute's Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy (CRISP) released the results for 2021 on Wednesday.

The number of homeless individuals increased by 21%, from 1,588 to 1,928, between 2020 and 2021. That's also the highest number of homeless individuals recorded in the past 10 years. But CRISP researchers believe some of that increase can be attributed to a change in methodology used for the annual count.

Typically, surveyors conduct the count on one night throughout the city of Indianapolis in late January. That changed in 2021 due to the pandemic. This year, the PIT Count happened over five days. With more time to survey the city, there were more opportunities to find individuals on the street who may have been previously missed.

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The count includes both sheltered and unsheltered individuals. In 2021, the survey for sheltered individuals was shorter. Still, researchers found an increase in the number of available beds in emergency shelters. There were 786 available beds during the count.

"This last year has only reaffirmed the fact that safe, stable, permanent housing is a public health response and a social justice issue," said CHIP Executive Director Chelsea Haring-Cozzi. "Our city and community partners came together in amazing ways during the COVID-19 pandemic to execute a coordinated crisis response to keep those experiencing homelessness safe and healthy. ... Yet, the PIT count highlights the increased need for equitable housing interventions and services, and we must remain steadfast in our collective commitment to expand access and scale housing choices and to keep racial equity at the center of this work."

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Consistent with recent years, Black individuals were disproportionately represented in the count. They accounted for 54% of the count, despite making up just 29% of Marion County's total population, according to the 2019 Census.

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To see the full report and reports from previous years, visit chipindy.org.

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