FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) —After more than a year of COVID-19, officials are seeing an increase of people close to becoming homeless and several are veterans and their families.
“This is not just a Fort Wayne or Indiana problem, this is happening across the country,” said Code of Vets official Cindy White. “The pandemic caused a lot of heartaches and our veterans need our help.”
According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) as of January 2020, Indiana had around 5,625 Hoosiers experiencing homeless. Around 530 were homeless veterans.
However, that was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials with USICH say they have seen an increase in the number of veterans experiencing homelessness and hope to have more information and data in the coming months.
In northeast Indiana, organizations that work with veterans have seen a spike in the homeless population.
The Shephard’s House is a transitional living facility for homeless veterans with addictions. Their mission is to rebuild the lives of those who society views as hopeless into sober and productive assets to the community. In the past two months, they have seen an increasing need.
“We have not slowed down when it comes to homeless,” said Director of Veteran Outreach at Shephard’s House Tracey Barr. “Some people think it’s seasonal it really hasn’t been. There has been a real flow and an uptick in the last few months.”
Over the last two years, the Shephard’s House has expanded and recently received a six-month grant to help veterans once they leave the programs. Once a week a staff member or case manager will contact veterans who left the Shephard’s House to check on them and see if they need any assistance.
Once the six months are over, the organization will be able to see data on what is working and how they can improve. Barr believes this program will help keep veterans from ending back at their door.
“From where we sit it’s going very well because just to be able to touch base with them is great, ” Barr said. “The men and women have sacrificed so much for our country, we want to do whatever we can.”
Code of Vets is another organization that helps veterans and their families in northeast Indiana. The nonprofit collects money and items and then gives them to veterans and their families. Since the pandemic hit officials say their numbers have nearly doubled.
Officials believe the reason for the increase was in part due to COVID-19. During locked down several homeless may have stay where they were, couch surfing, and now that business and buildings are reopening they are now looking for help.
“A lot of families have lost their jobs and can’t pay HOA fees, or have trouble putting food on the table,” White said. “Since January of 2021 helped 11 vets and their families in Allen County and there are dozens more on a waitlist that we are trying to help.”