A packed house attended the January 13th screening of "Uncharted: The Truth Behind Homelessness" at the Indianapolis Worker Justice Center. The film focuses on barriers to service for the homeless residents of Indianapolis, specifically revolving around the incident in 2013 when the city evicted the homeless camp at Irish Hill on Davidson Street with no recourse for the residents. Attendees included members of the general public as well as representatives from organizations currently serving the homeless in Indianapolis.
City County Councillor Leroy Robinson visited during intermission to speak about City County Council Proposal 291, which he authored. Councillor Robinson was inspired to write the proposal after viewing Uncharted about 4 months earlier. He described having been moved by what he saw to independently interview many of the officials and representatives featured in the film. He stated "I didn't believe that what I saw could be my city, the city I work for. I was dissapointed to find the large majority of the information in the film was true".
Councillor Robinson encouraged the public to attend the homeless awareness rally on January 24, 2015, at 2pm on Monument Circle. He also asked that the public attend the City County Council meeting (Rules and Public Policy Committee) on January 27 to show support for the proposal. The meeting will be at the City County Building, room 260, 5:30pm. T-shirts supporting the proposal will be distributed to a limited number of first arrivals. Lastly, he asked that the public email all 29 City County Councillors to ensure the message is heard loud and clear to pass the proposal. More about Proposal 291 can be found at Weare291.org
Films for Action will be hosting a follow-up event on February 21, 5pm at the downtown Center for Inquiry. "The Advocate" featuring homeless advocate and former Irish Hill resident, Maurice Young, and directed by students of Taylor University will be screened. A Q&A and presentation by Maurice Young will follow the film.
The audience was shocked by some of the information contained in the film and expressed outrage about the situation in the discussion which followed. Indianapolis is the 13th largest city in the nation, and of the top 15, is the only one that does not have a city-run shelter.
According to the film, the city does provide some money, in the form of grants, to independent, non-profit shelters. To qualify for these grants, the shelters must show that their efforts result in crime prevention, rather than indicating they help individuals experiencing homelessness get back on their feet. The city does not have any secular shelters, another barrier to those in need of service.
Attendee Mark Smith has been homeless more than once, and talked about his experiences with both Wheeler Mission and jail. He described being required to attend religious meetings at Wheeler in order to receive services, and being humiliated by the staff when he fell asleep during the meetings. He said he would like to see the city provide regular shelter, because stays at the independent shelters are limited to 10 days. He would also like to see resources provided to help the homeless find jobs. Having no phone, internet access, or mailing address is a huge hurdle to acquiring a job, so many homeless rely on networking with friends and family to find employment.
Councillor Robinson spoke about his proposal as being part of the solution to our city's neglect of the homeless, and the first step toward his vision for resolving the problem. His proposal has three major parts. The first section protects homeless residents and their belongings in the event of an arrest or eviction, the second is a homeless bill of rights, and the third provides for an engagement center. He says he spoke to the homeless when creating his legislation and wrote the proposal "for the homeless, to hold the city responsible".
Attendee E'sha Cooper expressed her outrage with the city's current tactics, in a way that many can relate to. She said "I feel this is like a situation with a single mom and dad isn't held accountable. The homeless are like our kids and dad [the city] isn't paying child support and isn't showing up or being held responsible and only gets sentenced to $1 a week".