The Homeless Task Force recently released the results of the homeless count, which was taken in our area on January 29. The Wayne Township Trustee’s Office was one of the locations the Task Force used to count our homeless residents.
Sadly, the new figures show a significant increase in the number of persons who, on that cold day in January, had no place to stay. The number of unsheltered homeless rose from 90 persons two years ago to 160 persons in this year’s count. These 160 persons were living in places such as under bridges, in stairwells, in vehicles or in other places not meant for human habitation. In addition, 306 persons were counted residing in homeless or other shelters in our community.
The new count very likely grossly underestimates the number of actual homeless residents in our area. This is because homeless persons are extremely difficult to count. Molly Cripe, Chair of the Homeless Task Force, has explained that homeless persons are “a population that often prefers to remain unnoticed.”
Almost 82 percent of the unsheltered homeless persons counted this year did not have a job and 18 percent were veterans. Veterans often face challenges resulting from their wartime service.
When I have walked or ridden my bicycle along the Rivergreenway in Downtown Fort Wayne this summer, I have seen the evidence of homeless persons living under the bridges. This is where they leave their blankets, mattresses and belongings.
I have seen homeless persons in Freimann Square during the day or in our office in the mornings seeking the free coffee we provide. I have spoken to homeless persons urging them go to shelters for the night, which they often are reluctant to do.
Here at Wayne Township we do what can to help our homeless population, and I wish we could do more. In addition to the free coffee, homeless persons can stop in our office on Monday mornings and get free food from the Community Harvest Food Bank. Our Health Fair and Veterans’ Stand Down, scheduled this year for October 23, invites homeless persons to participate and receive free medical services, as well as winter clothing and a nutritious hot meal.
My office sometimes can prevent homelessness by helping families with rent and utility assistance. For those persons receiving our financial assistance, we will enroll them in our Employment Training Center and help them eliminate barriers to finding employment. But, we can’t help persons who already are homeless with rent assistance until they find a place to live.
On Thursday, September 10, MobileMissions Inc., a caring organization whose main focus is to feed the homeless in Fort Wayne, will be sponsoring a fundraiser to benefit our Health Fair and Stand Down and to help their agency serve food to more homeless persons throughout the year.
The “Feed-Your-Face” BBQ will be from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the corner of Lafayette and Lewis Streets Downtown. The cost is $15 for a meal that includes ribs, chicken, bratwurst, baked beans, corn and a roll, enough food for two people. To ensure you get this great meal, you can pre-order by calling Tarsha Bunch at (260) 460-0799. You also can stop by and order the day of the fundraiser until extra meals are gone.
Several of my staff members have sampled Tarsha’s ribs and say they are delicious.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee