On one of the coldest days of the year in January Daniel Demland was taking advantage of the warming center at the Community Center.
Daniel Demland, who is homeless, spends most days at the Allen County Library. At noon he lunches at St Mary's Soup Kitchen. But at night he will find a secluded spot to pitch the tent he lives in. Demland said he likes it that way. He has two sleeping bags, one he sleeps in, the other he spreads on the ground to keep the cold out. He knows about shelters like the Rescue Mission, but he prefers not to sleep in tight quarters, he has a lot of belongings. He carries to full backpacks with him.
Demland is just one of a number of people who live on the streets of Fort Wayne. This Thursday the United Way of Allen County and the area Homelessness Council will conduct the Point In Time Count. The count is used to determine the number of homeless individuals and families currently in the community. The count covers those who are residing in shelters or are currently without housing. The count does not cover those who are currently living with other friends, family members or who are staying temporarily in a hotel.
In 2006 a 10-year plan was released that would solve the problem by increasing safe, affordable housing; shelter capacity and education. The Northeast Indiana Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness, comprising 69 public and private organizations, were to be responsible for implementing the plan.
In 2006 about 2,500 people in Fort Wayne were either homeless, or on the brink of being homeless, because they spent more than half their income on housing, according to the United Way of Allen County. In 2005, the count revealed 350 homeless on the street and in shelters. In 2004, the January count revealed 104 homeless. In 2006 Mayor Graham Richard had said progress with the new plan to end homelessness would be measured at the end of the first, fifth and 10th years.
The dream of ending homelessness in that time frame is still a dream.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Tiffany Bailey, director of 2-1-1, income and basic needs at United Way and chair of the Fort Wayne Area Planning Council on Homelessness said Monday.
In 2013 the count found 535 persons experiencing homelessness, whether they were staying in a shelter or living someplace not meant for human habitation. Of those, 134 were children under the age of 18. The number of individuals who were victims of domestic violence nearly doubled, as did those that are struggling with chronic substance abuse. The number of homeless veterans counted tripled from the prior year.
“We have been able to provide more shelter and housing for veterans,” said Bailey.
But they are still struggling to find readily available shelter for women who do not have an addiction problem as well as families with children.
“There is still a real need for safe and affordable housing in this community,” said Bailey.
The 2014 Point In Time Count will be done at two locations on January 30. Those who wish to participate in the count can visit The Rescue Mission at 301 W. Superior St. between 6 a.m.- 6 p.m. or the Samuel Walker Community Center at 1151 Francis St. from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
The Fort Wayne Area Planning Council on Homelessness is working to address the issue of homelessness so local individuals can find permanent shelter, employment and supportive services to become self-sufficient. The Planning Council is a joint effort of dozens of agencies, as well as local government, and is working toward three main goals: to reduce the number of homeless persons, shorten the time people are homeless and make sure enough resources exist to prevent people from becoming homeless again.
To help, call 2-1-1, to be connected to agencies in need of non-perishable food items and personal care product donations or organizations that need volunteers to help serve and support those in need. For those currently experiencing homelessness or at risk for becoming homeless, call 2-1-1 for assistance.
Established in 1922, United Way of Allen County is a not-for-profit organization that works to strengthen the community through improving education, income, health and basic needs.