GREENE COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A study published last week by Indiana University examined homelessness in Greene County, Ind. County Commissioner Nathan Abrams there has always been a homeless population in the area, but that there is help available.
Abrams has lived in the county for more than three decades. He said homelessness has been a consistent issue since he initially moved to the county.
“It’s a terrible thing whenever anybody is homeless,” Abrams added. “But the vast majority of people that are homeless in Greene County, they want to be homeless.”
He said there are resources available to those who need it, such as the Family Life Center in Bloomfield, Ind. Abrams said without the help of those groups, the county would not be able to combat the issue at all.
“They have programs. A lot of the local churches have programs,” he said. “There are several independent ministries now in the county. But the main thing is people have to reach out.”
Laura Littlepage, clinical associate professor at Indiana University, conducted the homelessness study with the university’s center for rural engagement that showed at least 51 people in Greene County are currently experiencing homelessness. According to Littlepage, a key piece to preventing homelessness is through prevention.
“People who are in houses that have broken windows or roofs that need repair,” she said. “Or maybe their utilities got shut off. You can work with those people to prevent them from becoming homeless and it’s much better for the families and you don’t have to send to a shelter.”
Abrams and Littlepage both said they agree that building a government funded shelter may not be feasible in a rural area such as Greene County. However, they both added that it will take everyone to help get people into stable housing.
“It’ll take a lot of effort between not only the local government but also the community,” Abrams said. “But I just don’t know how much community support there is for that.”
Littlepage echoed Abrams’ concerns of community support and available funding.
“It’s complicated. It’s not easy,” she said. “But, the goal should be to try and keep people in our community for a lot of reasons. You don’t have to create a shelter but do something to help people stay in their community.”
Littlepage added that it was difficult to conduct research in the area due to many people not wanting to identify as homeless. She also acknowledged that some of the data collected during the study could be off.
However, based on her research, the 51 people who identified as homeless consist of 24 adults and 27 children. The study defined a homeless person as anyone living in buildings with tarps for roofs, missing floors and no utilities, as well as those living in tents, cars and campers.