Chesterton Tribune

Homelessness a growing problem in Porter County

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By KEVIN NEVERS

In 2010, there were 215 homeless school-age students in Porter County; nearly one in five homeless folks here have been homeless longer than three months; and in January 2011 a total of 154 adults and 75 children were homeless here.

Those are the facts, some of them, of homelessness in the county, according to a study prepared by Housing Opportunities and funded by various municipal grants, including one from the Town of Chesterton.

At the Town Council’s meeting Monday night, Caroline Shook of Housing Opportunities made her report. And it wasn’t a happy one.

The economic downturn, Shook said, has hit folks in the county hard. In 2009, nearly 11,000 persons had incomes below the official poverty level, with 2,200 children in the country living in poverty. In the 23 years since 1989, the number of persons living below half of the poverty line has increased by 44 percent and since 2000 median household incomes have dropped by $8,905.

All of these factors tend to increase homelessness, Shook said, as does the general type of housing stock in Porter County, overwhelmingly single-family, with only 17.2 percent of it having two or more units. Rents, meanwhile, have increased by 38 percent since 2000 and in 2009 nearly 13 percent of renters paid fully 30 percent of their income toward rent, a percentage “considered an unaffordable rent burden.”

Top personal reasons for homelessness in Porter County: inadequate income (92.3 percent); lack of job skills (73.1 percent); credit problems (61.5 percent); substance-use issues (53.8 percent); domestic violence (46.2 percent); and disability (38.5 percent).

Top systemic reasons for homelessness: lack of good-paying jobs (73.1 percent); lack of affordable housing (65.4 percent); transportation issues (57.7 percent); long housing waiting lists (46.2 percent); limited supply of housing for families (30.8 percent); lack of housing with supportive services (23.1 percent).

Housing Opportunities, accordingly, has crafted a 10-year plan intended to prevent and end homelessness in Porter County. Its major planks, Shook said:

•Increasing access to stable and affordable housing.

•Focusing on the prevention of homelessness, by expanding outreach and service delivery to folks at risk of becoming homeless.

•Increasing persons’ economic stability and mitigating employment barriers which block folks from success at work.

•Improving health and stability.

•Improving civic leadership, collaboration, and engagement.

•And centralizing and rationalizing the homeless crisis response system.

The council thanked Shook for her report.

From the Floor, Re: the Duneland Referendum

In other business, Paul Tharp from the floor expressed concern at the Duneland School Corporation’s referendum on May 8 on a proposed new property-tax. In particular, Tharp questioned Superintendent Dirk Baer’s comment that the tax would only amount to a few dollars per month, which Tharp said may be so but still enough to pose a hardship to folks on fixed incomes.

“It may not be very much but there are people in town on the brink of losing their homes and a lot of homes have already been foreclosed on in town,” Tharp said. “We’ve got empty houses, people who are out of work or under-employed.”

“They knew it was coming and now it’s a crisis and they’re putting their hands out,” Tharp added.

The Knights

Meanwhile, members agreed by consensus to allow the Knights of Columbus, Council 5929, to hold its annual Tootsie Roll sale outside of local businesses on June 1-2.

 

Posted 2/28/2012