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Marion County sees massive 35% drop in homeless veterans

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — According to Helping Veterans and Familes (HVAF), Marion County has seen a 35% decrease in veterans living in homelessness this year compared to last year, one of the biggest drops in recent years.

“Coming back to the United States airports in uniform, and having little kids run up to me like I’m a hero, I felt everything but a hero,” recalls Timothy Wright, a Marine Corps veteran who served in the Persian Gulf War. “I had to learn that the hard way. I mean, in fact, it ended up leading me to do prison time.”

Wright says once he was done serving his country, at the young age of 23, he had difficult time transitioning back to civilian life.

“As a civilian, I spent the better part of 25 years off and on and incarcerated,” he says.

That was until he found the HVAF program. He says they helped him turn his life around.

“They actually give you a chance to set goals, make goals, make plans, make things come to life, and just make you feel better about yourself,” Wright said. “If nobody else cares, HVAF does.”

CEO of HVAF, Emmy Hildebrand, says there are about 167 veterans living in homelessness this year in Marion County. She says while that number is lower than the 257 from last year, the organizations remember it’s not a perfect estimate.

“[Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis] estimates the number of veterans who will experience homelessness throughout the year is three to five times what is counted,” Hildebrand explained.

Nevertheless, Hildebrand credits much of their success to the COVID relief funds they received.

“We got approximately $3 million from the beginning of COVID and extra resources in that program, to be able to help veterans find apartments, to help pay their rent while they were still looking for employment, and make sure their families were stabilized,” Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand says they never had to close during the pandemic as a result. I-Team 8’s Jasmine Minor asked Wright where he would be if he didn’t find the HVAF program.

“I’d be in trouble,” he said. “I’ll probably be in grave danger.”

If you or someone you know is a veteran in need of HVAF resources, the organization welcomes walk-ins Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also visit their website for more information.