The 100 members of the Indiana House next year will dedicate themselves to assisting homeless Hoosier veterans by raising money and making other efforts to support the state's American Legion.

It's the 10th consecutive joint service project for Republican and Democratic state representatives, a tradition begun in 2011 by retiring House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

In prior sessions, members of the House have donated goods and raised money for the Special Olympics, Indiana food banks, domestic violence prevention programs, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Salvation Army and state adoption programs.

They also worked in 2017 with Habitat for Humanity to construct walls and roof panels on the Statehouse lawn that later were assembled into a house that was provided to a low-income Indianapolis family.

Bosma said he and House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, chose homeless veterans as the chamber's 2020 service project because the need for assistance, separate from the state aid provided to veterans, is growing.

"We've learned a lot about this issue in the last couple of months," Bosma said. "While there has been a general downturn in homelessness for vets, in Indiana there was actually a 6% increase for homeless veterans in the last year."

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were 572 Indiana military veterans lacking permanent homes in 2019, an increase of 33 homeless vets compared to 2018.

"In Indiana, the increase in veterans experiencing homelessness indicates that our collaborative efforts are helping us to more readily find and assist veterans experiencing homelessness," said Joseph Galvan, HUD Midwest regional administrator.

"We can do better for those who put their lives on the line so that we could remain the land of the free and home of the brave."

HUD data show of the 572 homeless Indiana veterans recorded this year, 529 were living in shelters and 43 were on the streets.

Despite the annual uptick, Indiana's total population of homeless veterans actually has decreased 25.4% since 2010, according to HUD.

"We've made great progress in our efforts to end veteran homelessness, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure our heroes have access to affordable housing," HUD Secretary Ben Carson said.

Bosma said he will announce Jan. 6, the first day of the 10-week Indiana legislative session, what specifically Hoosier lawmakers will do to assist homeless Hoosier veterans.
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