News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 9, 2013

Agency seeks help for homeless

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A Terre Haute agency that works to help homeless people hopes that other groups wanting to help will get involved  to better document the needs in the Wabash Valley.

With the Point In Time homeless count coming up in late January 2014, the agency Families By Choice is spreading the word that six counties compose the district planning council, and input from all areas is needed to give a realistic count of the homelessness problem.

“It’s more than just Vigo County,” said Muriel Ryan, Families by Choice founder.

She met Monday at Ivy Tech Community College with residents of Clay and Sullivan counties who are interested in documenting the homeless and receiving funding for programs that assist people in both temporary and chronic homelessness.

“It’s sad how many people are in need,” said Don Ransford, a United Methodist pastor for two congregations in Sullivan County. He said he works with a utility and rent ministry that helps people who have trouble paying their monthly bills.

“Many of these people are not homeowners, and many are almost transient,” he said, explaining that when they get too far behind on their rent, they often just move on to some other housing where they are soon behind again on their bills.

Another ministry, Our Father’s Arms, provides food and clothing in Sullivan County, providing assistance to many area residents in need.

Ryan said she encourages those types of ministries and agencies to get involved in the homeless count, which is a project of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Federal funding for homeless programs is funneled through the state to local agencies. The Wabash Valley Planning Council on Homelessness for Region 7 includes Clay, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties.

The planning council meets at 11 a.m. every third Tuesday at Ryves Youth Center at Etling Hall near 14th and Locust streets in Terre Haute. Several agencies send representatives to those meetings, Ryan said, because the issue of homelessness often crosses into many areas, such as mental health, disabilities and substance abuse. The next meeting of that council is Dec. 17.

She also noted that an information session on the Point In Time count is set for 10 a.m. Dec. 19 at Ryves Youth Center. Training may be offered on how to collect data and enter it into an online database that tracks the nature and scope of human service needs across the state.

Ryan said that anyone wanting to get involved in Families By Choice or learn more about homelessness issues can contact her office at 812-240-4401.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.