CLARK COUNTY, Ind. — "These are people I have buried here locally, who have been through the outreach. We don't want to be adding anything else to the bench"
Blankets, coats, tents, personal hygiene items. All things needed as Paul Stensrud, prepares to head to the streets tonight for outreach for the homeless community.
"Everything is closed right now, the guys were wet from last night. Finding shelter is very difficult in Southern Indiana," Paul Stensrud said. He runs the Homeless Outreach in the area.
He's making it his mission to find them somewhere safe and warm, but his challenge is massive. The past year has left the homeless of Southern Indiana with few options on where to go when it is cold, according to Stensrud.
"And it is a struggle this year and the fact of COVID 19. Stensrud asks, "Where do they go?"
He points out the lack of resources in Southern Indiana.
"We do not have as many resources as they do in Louisville. So technically during the daytime, they don't have anywhere to go, and the shelter they can't go there anymore."
Stensrud and the Director of the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana, Leslea Townsend Cronin both believe that in the next few months there will be an increase of homeless in the area, and they attribute it to one thing--lack of resources.
"Southern Indiana does not have the resources we need for the homeless population. In Indiana, there is a shortage of affordable housing," Cronin said.
Stensrud echos the same sentiment, "Right now it is housing. There is not enough housing. And reflecting back to COVID-19 evictions. The evictions haven't started."
And the question remains where do those people go, when they are forced out of their homes?
"We are not going to be able to carry the burden of the need in Southern Indiana at this point, so we are going to see more people living out of their cars, Stensrud said.
A study by global investment firm Stout estimates up to 14 million households could already be close to eviction, with a rental shortfall of more than $24 billion – a number compounded by the economic fallout of the pandemic, which has put many out of work and at risk of displacement for the first time in their lives.