As we enter the month of February, my hope is that your 2023 year has started off well and you are already reaping the benefits of those resolutions you made at the turn of the year. This time of year allows for some reflection of the previous year where we can still use what we learn to help inform the way-ahead for the remainder of this year. So, let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore how the previous year went for HVAF in serving the veterans of our community.
In 2022, HVAF of Indiana provided 1,265 veterans with 33,157 total services. The 2022 Indianapolis Point In Time Count identified 167 homeless veterans in Marion County on the night of January 24, 2022, accounting for 11.5% of the entire homeless population. This is a 35% decrease from the previous year! (Note: According to the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, the true estimate of the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Marion County annually is three to five times the Point In Time count. Using this formula, approximately 500-800 veterans experienced homelessness in Indianapolis last year.) While HVAF did not see a 35% reduction in veterans served year-over-year, we did notice that numbers were down a bit from 2021 and 2020 at the height of the pandemic.
Even so, HVAF still provided those 1,265 veterans with the same level of care and number of services that has been provided in years’ past. On average, each veteran received about 26 services throughout the year which is on par with previous years. The services provided ranged across a variety of programs and services. For instance, 185 veterans moved into permanent housing in 2022 thanks in part to the housing teams at HVAF. Additionally, 260 veterans received employment assistance in 2022 thanks to HVAF’s Workforce Development team. HVAF also operates a food and clothing pantry, which is open to veterans every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. This pantry provided services to 766 veterans throughout the 2022 year while distributing almost 51,000 pounds of food and almost 18,000 pounds of clothing!
I could easily write an entire newsletter talking about the great services that HVAF staff members provide every day. That said, we are also very blessed with volunteers throughout the year, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we had over 5,000 volunteer hours for the 2022 year! A lot of what we do, especially in our pantry, could not be done without our amazing volunteers who continue to make sure veterans get what they need from the pantry. Shifting gears a bit, a little-known fact about HVAF is that we have a bicycle program, where we equip veterans in need with a bicycle. We gave out more bikes in 2022 than any other year, with 19 veterans receiving a bike! Lastly, with the holidays comes lots of generosity, gratitude, and gift-giving. For HVAF, it also meant being able to provide 84 veteran families with Thanksgiving dinner baskets and 358 veterans being adopted for Christmas! It truly was a special holiday season.
Now that our trip down memory lane has brought us back to the present, it allows us the chance to create some space to recognize the month in which we currently occupy. With February comes the opportunity for us to celebrate Black History Month and explore what that means for each of us. Locally, within Marion County, Black individuals make up over 50% of the population of people experiencing homelessness despite accounting for only 28% of the overall population. These numbers also bear out in terms of the demographics that make up the veteran population being served by HVAF. For 2022, 57.5% of the veterans served identified as African American and 36% identified as Caucasian. Here at HVAF, we are doing what we can to ensure ALL veterans receive the necessary support in order to achieve self-sufficiency.
While we’ve explored the history of HVAF by looking back to last year, February affords us another opportunity to recognize that Black History Month is important because it creates opportunity to highlight and acknowledge key figures from our past and present. It’s a time to celebrate achievements that African Americans have accomplished in this country, despite the history of racism and oppression. Dating back to its origin in 1926, Carter Woodson originated this idea to promote and educate people about Black history and culture. So, in this month of February, having reflected on the year that was and the year that is to be, let’s make sure to also dedicate time to honor and focus attention on all the contributions of African Americans to our great country. HVAF is proud to be an organization that promotes diversity, inclusion, and opportunity for ALL veterans and their families.