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What are options for county’s homeless?

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Homeless people in Bartholomew County have several options when seeking housing.

Horizon House, a program of Human Services Inc., serves as the first point of contact for individuals and families.

“If there is a homeless individual, they are referred to Horizon House first,” said Michele Lee, director of the department of homeless prevention for Human Services.

The staff conducts the initial assessments for families and individuals, who then are referred to the appropriate organization in the county. Horizon House only provides housing assistance for families with children and will refer homeless individuals to other service providers in the area.

Working in coordination with Human Services, Horizon House is able to place homeless or temporarily displaced families in a variety of temporary housing situations, including transitional apartments and three homes given to the agency by the city of Columbus. Families are placed in housing based on their needs, which vary from family to family, Lee said. Families placed in housing by Horizon House are to be cared for by the program from one to 18 months at a time.

“Every family is unique, and every family needs their own special treatment,” Lee said. “We accommodate the individual need of the family.”

Horizon House also provides prevention programs for families at risk of being evicted from their homes. The families participating in the prevention programs are case managed by Horizon House staff and are eligible to receive rent assistance, utility-payment assistance, and any assistance deemed necessary that is able to be provided by Horizon House and Human Services Inc.

Love Chapel, a faith-based collaboration of 24 churches of the Ecumenical Assembly, also serves the homeless population. Established in 1967, Love Chapel provides emergency sheltering, transitional housing, a food bank, hot meal sites and a mentoring program for single mothers with children called Bridge of Hope.

Homeless people who are not able to be sheltered by Horizon House typically are referred to Love Chapel, which has eight rooms in a boarding house for emergency shelter. It also may place individuals needing immediate and short-term assistance at a local hotel.

In order to be temporarily housed by Love Chapel, individuals must not use drugs or alcohol during their stay, must be seeking employment and permanent housing of their own and must comply with a curfew.

The Columbus Township trustee also is heavily involved in the area’s homelessness prevention and homeless assistance efforts, according to township trustee Ben Jackson.

His office will work with individuals seeking shelter or some form of aid and often will refer them to a community organization that can help.

Jackson’s office also provides transportation services to a shelter in Indianapolis and funds a 24-hour assistance hotline operated by Horizon House. The trustee’s office also pays for the apartments used by Horizon House to shelter homeless or displaced families and for the cost of hotel rooms if no emergency housing is immediately available.

Centerstone, a regional corporation with facilities in the Midwest, is another key player in Bartholomew County’s efforts to reduce homelessness. Centerstone specializes in helping individuals with serious mental illnesses and people dealing with substance abuse and addiction — both major issues with the homeless population, Centerstone staff member Lindsay Potts said.

“I do know that addiction and mental issues are huge problems in the homeless community,” Potts said.

The Centerstone facility in Columbus has six beds for treating the mentally ill. The facility recently began offering specialized case management services to homeless individuals needing treatment for mental or substance abuse issues. Potts said the problem is tracking homeless people who are receiving outpatient treatment.

“There are several logistical and follow-up issues that are challenging for those who don’t have a home,” she said. “I can generally say that outpatient treatment is going to be more difficult when you’re homeless. Everything is more difficult; that’s why it’s important to have someone else on your team.”

Centerstone has been the focus of a recent effort by Mayor Kristen Brown and the Advisory Council on Safe and Affordable Housing to expand services for the mentally ill and people struggling with substance abuse issues in the county.

As a part of a pilot program endorsed by the advisory council, $35,000 of the city’s Community Development Block Grant funding has been budgeted in fiscal year 2014 to provide extended case management services through Centerstone. The pilot program is scheduled to begin this week.

There are several other entities in the county that provide some form of assistance to homeless or temporarily displaced families and individuals. The Salvation Army, United Way and Turning Point, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse, each provide services to those with housing struggles.

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