News article on public presentation of Everyone Home initiative

Everyone Home initiative kicked off public input sessions Wednesday

In News by everyone1homefw

89.1 WBOI | By Tony Sandleben

Published March 9, 2023 at 4:22 PM EST

Everyone Home: Fort Wayne’s community plan to prevent and end homelessness is a “living plan, and Wednesday evening was the first opportunity for city residents to weigh in on the work.

Roughly 40 people were at the Allen County Public Library’s main theater Wednesday night for the first public meeting on the new initiative.

Each person got the chance to say which goal they felt was the most important, and almost half chose expanding access to safe, low-barrier, temporary housing options.

Jim Atz, a community development administrator with the Fort Wayne Community Development Commission, said that means building a new shelter that helps everyone, including those not helped by other shelters for rule violations such as alcohol consumption or drug use.

“Everyone counts in our community, but those shelters are missing a segment of the population,” Atz said. “How do we get a shelter built that can reach those folks?”

Others suggested buying vacant property and building tiny homes on them. Others felt the goals the project includes are too vague and need measurable numbers with a timeline with them. Officials said those numbers are on the initiative website.

Officials identified the numerous nonprofits and care providers as a strength in the Fort Wayne Community, but one person Wednesday night said it was actually a problem because the organizations are not collaborating enough which is forcing more money to administrative costs and less to providing services.

Atz says there needs to be a change of direction there.

“Nonprofits have a mission, and that mission is like an arrow on the path they’re heading to,” Atz said. “We want these arrows, regardless of how many there are, we want these arrows to be going in the same direction, but not only in the same direction. We want them in the same line.”

Atz said that means more collaboration and coordination between Fort Wayne’s nonprofits.

When officials first announced the Everyone Home initiative, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said several thousand people make up Fort Wayne’s homeless population. However on Wednesday night, officials said federal data said that number was less than 300 Some said that discrepancy was from Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) definition of homelessness limited the number of people who were counted in that number. Others said it was because of nonprofits and care providers underreporting the amount of people they serve. Atz said it was both.

“There is a discrepancy because of the definition,” Atz said. “There are lots of definitions of homelessness depending on what agency it is or what act you’re referring to. There’s also folks that want to avoid detection. There are homeless folks that don’t want to be detected. So, how do we bring them out of the shadows and get them accounted for and get them the care that they need?”

Officials said they plan to continue taking input from the public by keeping the website live for public comment and always being attentive to the phone line.

Anyone interested in sharing their thoughts on how to combat homelessness in Fort Wayne can call the Fort Wayne Community Development Commission at 260-427-2181 or at the website.