Panel discusses housing scarcity, homelessness at Zionsville event

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Local experts addressed housing scarcity, homelessness and poverty during a panel discussion Sept. 17 at SullivanMunce Cultural Center in Zionsville.

Panel members were Susan Hyatt, chair of the Dept. of Anthropology at IUPUI; Kathryn Ransburg, an Indianapolis-area attorney specializing in tenant/landlord law and real estate; Andy Beck, marketing and public relations committee chair at Homes for All Indy; and Tracy Beer, McKinney Vento liaison for Lawrence Township schools. The event was presented by Boone County Voices for Change.

Beer said one of the topics she is most passionate about is how homelessness affects a family, long term.

“That’s one of the biggest things I was able to elaborate on just because I see that the most, especially with kids in school,” Beer said.

Beer said it’s also a tough topic to explain because many homeless families are under-identified.

“Whether it’s stigma or they just don’t know about it, but there are services out there through school with McKinney Vento,” Beer said. “McKinney Vento is a federally funded program every school district in the nation has to have. Somebody within the school district that has to identify families and also make sure that the federal laws are followed.”

Beer said Mckinney Vento removes barriers from anything a non-homeless student would have access to, such as sports and transportation.

“Transportation is probably the biggest thing,” Beers said. “Yypically in school districts, you get busing if you’re in the district, and this law requires us to bus even if (homeless students are) out-of-district.”

Beer said another issue McKinney Vento struggles with is identifying families, which is usually a matter of families being unaware of resources. 

“We have all these great resources in Indiana with the shelters and different housing programs and stuff like that, but if families don’t know about them or they don’t meet the criteria, then they’re not being identified or brought to those resources,” Beer said. “Nobody is choosing this lifestyle, but it’s really hard to get yourself out of it when there’s a lot of barriers to the resources within the city.”

During the panel, Beers said she tried to explain the many challenges children encounter  housing is a problem.

“I tried to touch on daily life of what kids go through,” she said. “If kids don’t get a good night’s sleep because of sleeping with three other family members in one room, or they’re scared to go to sleep because where they live isn’t appropriate or the neighborhood isn’t good, so they’re up all night on guard, that leads to behaviors in the classroom. That just leads to a lot of behavior issues at school as well as falling behind at school.”

The panel discussion was the culmination of the Boone County Voices for Change’s One Book project. The organization read “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Matthew Desmond.

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