Community weighs in on downtown plans for homeless

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Downtown development is a sign of momentum in Fort Wayne. But with progress often comes tough decisions.

No one really knows how many homeless people live in Allen County. Estimates range anywhere from 300 to almost 3,000, depending on how homelessness is defined. Many of them hang out around Friemann Square, Headwaters Park, or the Allen County Public Library downtown during the day. At night, they sleep underneath the Wells Street Bridge or shelters. Experts agree most of Allen County’s homeless population lives downtown, and their numbers are growing.

The Rescue Mission has launched a capital campaign to raise over $85,000 for emergency shelter renovations. But Coley broke the news on the organization’s future downtown plans exclusively to 15 Finds Out. Leaders with the Rescue Mission hope to eventually team up with social service agencies and build a new day center downtown. The plans are still very preliminary.

After NewsChannel 15’s special report on homelessness in downtown Fort Wayne, our team put up a poll asking the community if downtown revitalization should include more places for the homeless. Almost 80 percent of people said they think it should, around 17 percent of people said no, and nearly three percent of people said they didn’t care either way. People who were walking around downtown Monday evening overwhelmingly echoed the poll results.

“I think they should expand it because the homeless population is growing,” Fort Wayne resident, Emily Vanderford said.

Some other people said giving the homeless more services would clean up the city and give the people a space that’s more useful. Some of the people who are a part of the homeless population said one of the problems is that most of the shelters in town are at full capacity, and it’s hard for new homeless people to get shelter.

“I’d like to see them donate an old building to the homeless, and us homeless can dig out of our pockets and help fix it up,”Yvonne Lennon, who’s currently homeless, said.

Part two of 15 Finds Out “Down and Out in Downtown” airs Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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