The Wayne Township Trustee’s Office recently served as a site for the homeless count, organized by the Allen County Housing and Homeless Task Force. The count is done every two years on the same day throughout the country. It is reported to the Federal Government and could lead to more federal money to help the homeless in our community.
My office was one of four sites in our community participating in the homeless count, which is a very challenging task. The sites were chosen as places homeless persons might be most likely to congregate. Walking teams also attempted to contact and count homeless persons in places they might stay outside.
When the homeless count was conducted two years ago, ninety individuals in Fort Wayne were counted as being without any shelter whatsoever, according to Molly Cripe, chair of the committee conducting the count. The ninety persons counted two years ago did not include persons living in shelters and most likely was low because of the difficulty of counting those without homes.
Due to the downturn in our economy, I expect the number of homeless in Wayne Township has increased considerably in the past two years. The homeless count reminded me once again about how difficult living without a home must be.
Several of us, including me, got a small taste of what it would be like to be homeless during our power outage in December. But, I cannot even imagine staying outside at night in makeshift shelters during an Indiana Winter.
We do what we can at Wayne Township to help the homeless, but, we are restricted by Indiana law, as to the help we can provide. Financial assistance for rent, mortgage and utility assistance can be provided only to those who already have homes. This is a way to prevent persons from becoming homeless, but does not help those already without permanent residences.
We provide food help for the homeless either through the food bank at our office or from the Community Harvest Farm Wagon, which comes to our office on Mondays. We also help by providing assistance with obtaining medicine for those who cannot afford their prescriptions.
Our special events such as our health fair and coat drive provide much needed medical care for those without homes and clothing to help keep homeless persons warm. If our office cannot help a homeless person in need, my staff will meet with that person and try to find a social service agency that will be able to assist.
As part of the homeless count, donated backpacks were given out in our office to homeless persons participating in the count. Those backpacks contained several items a homeless person could use, including a blanket, winter hat and gloves, trash bags to carry their belongings and duct tape used to build their temporary shelters.
And, we at the Wayne Township Trustee’s Office provide homeless persons with free coffee in the morning and use of a telephone. These may seem like small conveniences to many of us but mean a lot to someone who has just slept outside in the cold all night.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee