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HUD Report Shows Number Of Homeless Veterans In Indiana Increased In 2019

A graph from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development about homeless veterans in Indiana.

(Courtesy the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

The number of homeless veterans in Indiana has increased since last year, despite a nine-year overall decline, according to a new estimate from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The department’s Annual Homelessness Assessment Report compiles the number of homeless veterans by state starting in 2010 and ending in Jan. 2019. It shows that the number of homeless Hoosier veterans is up over 6 percent since 2018.

Monroe County Veteran Service Officer Mary Elftman says the statewide jump in homeless vets over the last year reflects what she’s seeing in Bloomington.

“Sadly, it’s a calamity of errors," she says. "We have a lot of veterans who come here from other counties, seeking services, because the services here in Monroe County are so good.”

Elftman works with the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide rental assistance vouchers to veterans in Monroe County. She says the issue isn’t accessing the vouchers – it’s getting landlords to accept veterans as tenants.

“Veterans are using those," Elftman says of the vouchers. "In fact, we have several that are currently vacant that could be used. But what we run into is veterans not [being] able to qualify for whatever apartment they’re looking at.”

And often, she says, it’s hard for local services to get an accurate count of homeless vets because they must self-identify at shelters, and some of them rely on the kindness of friends and family.

“A lot of people don’t realize that, but when you’re sleeping on somebody’s couch that, tomorrow, he could say, ‘You know, I don’t want you sleeping on my couch anymore,’ that’s still homelessness," she says.

The report also shows that there are around 25 percent fewer homeless veterans in the state this year than there were in 2010.

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