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July 10, 2013

ANDERSON: Kicking out complacency in ending homelessness \

Homelessness in Southern Indiana is real, but it is different from homelessness in Louisville. How? Very simply put: money. It is easy to point fingers and say the folks in Jeffersonville are not as enlightened as Louisvillians. After all for 30 years Louisville has had a Coalition for the Homeless. Also, Louisville has several million dollars to address homelessness because it is an entitlement community. It is much easier to address an issue when you have the resources to do so. 

As the Courier-Journal editorial stated, Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore was less than tactful when he made the following statement about ending homelessness: “We’re not here to solve the problem,” which appeared in a Courier-Journal story. The editorial hit the nail on the head about homelessness being an issue that precedes this mayor and it will be after this mayor. As the director for the only emergency shelter in a region of several counties (Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Crawford, Scott, Jefferson and many others) let me tell you the reality. The non-entitlement communities of Southern Indiana receive little or no help in actually providing shelter or permanent supportive housing.

The practice of politics has always been rather indifferent to poverty. As a community or a region, New Albany is the only city receiving Community Development Block Grant dollars and it alone budgets for social services with the exception of Harrison (which has boat money) and Scott (which educated itself many years ago and has had a progressive mayor). 

As the secretary for the National Coalition for the Homeless and one who has advocated for 30 years it should be noted that Indiana is different from Kentucky. For instance: Kentucky just passed the expansion of Medicaid; Indiana will leave its poor in emergency rooms and without choices. Federal dollars are sought by Kentucky; they are scorned by Indiana. My peers and I have educated, slept on governor’s lawns, tried to initiate action and still we have an uphill battle because poor Hoosiers are expected to “pull themselves up by their boot straps.” Jesus Cares at Exit 0, a volunteer group that helps the homeless, has worked tirelessly for the last four years and many times I have talked with founder Paul Stensrud about not getting discouraged, because poverty is a long-haul issue. He will be here when a new mayor is in office because of the churches. Moore is right about one thing: The community as a whole is responsive and supportive of issues to help the homeless. Political will is driven at the ballot box and too many of our citizens just don't participate.

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