City releases number of homeless; advocate disputes tally

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The city of Indianapolis said Thursday the city has about 1,600 homeless people at any given time. That number has dropped almost 40 percent over the last five years.

Chelsea Haring-Cozzi of Coalition for Homelessness Intervention Prevention said those numbers are flawed due to how homeless are defined by certain federal agencies.

“So homelessness is not those that are living in motels or doubled up or couch surfing, so this number doesn’t capture those individuals,” explained Haring-Cozi.

According to the numbers released Thursday, around 100 to 130 people get off the streets every year. One of those people is Linda Clodfelter who was homeless for about a year. 

“My youngest daughter was critically ill, she has since passed away and I couldn’t get services for her, she was an adult, so I sold the house, sold the car and gave away everything so that we could get services …there is a hole in the system that I unfortunately I fit in,” said Clodfelter. 

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Clodfelter said her first stop was a shelter, which led to another and eventually she landed at a homeless camp along the White River.

“There is nothing scarier than sleeping on the street in the middle of the night,” explained Clodfelter.

Clodfelter, who is widowed, said prior to her daughter getting ill she had been living a comfortable life. 

But circumstances changed, and she was forced to navigate a system of government services, churches and community centers she never knew existed. 

“I learned our system, I did the work ya know there is a loop of services and if you walk that loop and you go everyday and you make your face known then you become a face with a name. It opens more doors,” explained Clodfelter. 

After months on the streets she was given a housing voucher by the Salvation Army which was good for three months rent; it was her ticket off the streets. 

Today Clodfelter helps care for a couple on the east side and she serves as the director for The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s homeless ministry.

Clodfelter is part of a small percentage of people that make it off the street every year. Everyone involved in the collection of the homeless data admit there are flaws in the data, but the guidelines are set by the federal government.

The one number consistent year-to-year is the nearly 40% of the homeless that just want to be left alone. 

To view the detailed report, click here