CROWN POINT — A bill that would create a new state program to house the homeless was approved 99-0 Tuesday by the Indiana House.
Senate Bill 242, co-authored by Sens. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, and James Merritt, would create by Jan. 1 a homelessness prevention program based on the Housing First model, which prioritizes placing chronically homeless persons into permanent housing before addressing other issues, such as unemployment or drug addiction.
The bill does not include funding for the Housing First Program, but the proposed state biennial budget would provide $1 million a year in funding.
The bill, which passed 47-3 in the Senate on Feb. 28, will advance to Gov. Eric Holcomb for final approval.
Rep. Earl Harris Jr., D-East Chicago, authored a similar bill in the House and co-sponsored the Senate bill. His parents, former State Reps. Earl Harris and Donna Harris, have previously championed homelessness legislation.
Harris said Wednesday the Indiana Housing First Program would be based on a similar program implemented in Utah that state officials there said reduced chronic homelessness by 91 percent.
The representative said providing housing was not only the most humane way to address homelessness, but the most cost effective.
A chronically homeless person can cost taxpayers anywhere between $30,000 to $50,000 through the use of emergency, police and hospital services, according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Of the 3,711 homeless persons counted in the state's most recent survey of the homeless population, 357 were identified as chronically homeless, and cost the state between $10.7 million and $17.9 million per year, by the council's estimates.
Harris said the legislation therefore appealed to both Democrats and Republicans, and he expected it to be signed by the governor.