Special Report: Housing the Homeless, Finding basic human needs consume homeless

Special Report: Housing the Homeless, Finding basic human needs consume homeless

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Many living on the streets are waiting for a place to call home. The wait could take years.

"This has a little bit of clothes in it. It has a couple of other covers in it. I have a pillow here I bought. It's not fun. It's not fun being homeless. It's not," says Melissa Sollars.

Sollars has been homeless for 8 months. Aurora is helping her get an apartment she can afford on her disability income.

"They contact the places to get you on the list, the waiting list," says Sollars.

Waiting lists are long in Evansville. The city is short nearly 5,000 affordable apartments.

"They all have a degree of wait ranged at good times from about 2-3 months on up to 2 years, well 4 years for a section 8 voucher," says Natasha Goodge.

Goodge is a case coordinator for Aurora's Homeless Outreach Team.

Months, even years, are a long time without a place to call home. There are resources to help decrease the burden of each month's rent, some bringing it down to just $50. Even people who are employed are feeling the strain.

"Sometimes you have to have more than one job. I'm kind of used to working 2 or 3. Everything's up, and it's not just rent. It's Vectren, water," says Karlette Cheatem.

Every person who shared their homeless experience with us talked about the same challenge: meeting basic human needs each day. They struggle to work towards bettering their situation because traveling across town to find food, water, and shelter consumes all their thoughts and energy. That is why Aurora follows a rapid rehousing strategy.

"If you give people the housing first they can work on the other things, and it works a lot. When the chaos stops they can plan. They can be accountable. You know where to find them," says Goodge.

After a year and a half on the street, Aurora helped Chris Davis get an apartment.

"You get to do basically what you want to do. You get to cook. You get to clean. You get to go out and get a job," says Davis.

Chris now has a job.

"The less time a person spends in homelessness, the less time they lose their actual belongings, their relationships, their self-esteem. Should they fall into homelessness and get right back out of it, they haven't lost a lot. The longer people are down, it's harder to get up. There's a whole program here to kind of give people that jolt and get back in," says Goodge.

David Wilson was homeless 4 years ago. He found shelter at United Caring Services.

"I spent almost 6 months upstairs sleeping in bed with everybody else," says Wilson.

Now, he is the supervisor at the very same shelter. He worked his way out of homelessness. He knows first hand how crucial volunteers are.

"Through the kindness of their hearts they donate money. They donate their time. They donate food, clothing. Anything that you could possibly think of most of it comes from our volunteers. Without them, our organization and probably every other organization that serves homeless would be completely lost. I can't say enough about the volunteers that help us," says Wilson.

Aurora helps new renters furnish their homes.

"It gives them a source of pride. It's really something to see how folks fix up their housing and do so much with so little," says Goodge.

More affordable rental units are in the works throughout the city. Not enough to close the gap, but every little bit helps.

"We do have more coming, so we're excited. We're grateful. We have more than we've ever had before, but we could still use more," says Goodge.

We are excited to share that Sollars now has a home. We were there while she moved into her new apartment. Watch 14 News at 6 p.m. on Thursday to see the smile on her face.

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