Mayor Joe Hogsett on Wednesday night challenged the city to better tackle homelessness—as well as other multigenerational issues including crime, education and neighborhoods—in his annual State of the City address.
Hogsett committed his administration to providing "permanent housing" for 400 more homeless residents within the next year, something that advocates say there is a shortage of right now.
“If our intent is to foster the well-being of all people, we cannot continue to walk past our most vulnerable neighbors,” Hogsett said in prepared remarks. “When reported numbers indicate an increase in homelessness from one year to the next, it is time for a community-wide call to action.”
Hogsett also announced a series of new initiatives and plans in his speech, including:
- A plan to “rehab, transform or demolish” 2,000 abandoned and blighted homes within the next two years;
- The Indianapolis Promise, a new plan that aims to guarantee Indianapolis teens access to quality post-high school credentials;
- A plan to hire 2,000 teens this summer in a jobs program;
- A new contract for street lights that embraces energy-efficient LED technology.
Attacking the issue of blighted homes has been a visible goal of Hogsett’s administration since he took office. He said that over the last 15 months, the city has demolished 313 dangerous buildings “that are beyond repair and invested in the rehabilitation of hundreds more.”
He said the administration will seek to incentivize development of “diverse housing stock” as it tackles more lots.
“We will meet this goal by encouraging and aiding in the repair of homes across this city and the construction of new homes—houses and apartments that will be affordable and accessible for all,” Hogsett said in the prepared remarks. “But we will also tear down what is beyond repair rather than allow them to serve as hotbeds for crime.”
Issues involving engaging teens and young adults in the city—and securing their futures—were a focus of the speech.
The Indianapolis Promise, he said, will bring together city, state, corporate and philanthropic resources and require the engagement of each of the county’s school districts. It will encourage more young people to enroll in two- and four-year degree programs that “lead directly to full employment.”
For instance, he said “we fail our most vulnerable students and their families” by not ensuring that 100 percent of eligible eighth graders sign up for the state’s popular 21st Century Scholars program, which provides college scholarships.
“If we do this, we can make real progress in addressing the cycle of generational poverty that has gripped our city and ensure that Indianapolis will continue to be economically competitive for decades to come,” Hogsett said.
The mayor also touted the success of the city's summer jobs program for young adults aged 15 to 24. Last summer, about 1,000 people found summer employment. This summer, Hogsett pledged to employ 2,000 teens.
Hogsett also laid out a challenge to Indianapolis Power and Light, whose contract with the city for its streetlights is set to expire at the end of the year.
He said the city is “only interested in an agreement that puts us on a path toward a full embrace of energy efficient LED technology within the next five years.”
“For IPL, that is good news because it will mean a modern street light system that they can tout as a model for the state and region,” Hogsett said in prepared remarks. “And for Indianapolis residents, that means street lights that use less energy and require fewer tax dollars that I am confident will allow the city to invest in not hundreds, but thousands of new lights in neighborhoods throughout the coming years.”
An IPL spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday night that the utility has been in ongoing discussions with the city about street lights "and is committed to helping realize Mayor Hogsett's vision and finding a path forward, which allows the city future use of energy-efficient LED technology."
Hogsett also addressed his goal of “holistic criminal justice reform” and issues of crime and gun violence in Indianapolis, saying that the city must do more.
The mayor’s remarks come amid a backdrop of criminal homicides that continue to grip the city. Thirty-five people so far this year have been killed. Indianapolis in 2016 had its deadliest year, outpacing 2015, a previous record.
“Somewhere in this city tonight, a child arrived home from school and went outside to play.,” Hogsett said. “Somewhere tonight, their play will be interrupted by the crack of a gun fired only a few blocks away.”
But Hogsett said he was committed to a “long and arduous journey.”
“Peace in our city is not so distant,” he said.