Even With Reported Need, New USDA Transitional Housing Initiatives Leave Indiana Out

Sep 7, 2016

Credit Cavale Doom / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cavale/

Indiana public health officials are hoping a handful of housing initiatives spearheaded by the USDA will eventually help recovering addicts in rural areas transition to healthier lives. But it may take a while for some solutions to arrive.

The USDA, through its rural housing services, makes thousands of Indiana homes available to low-income residents through guaranteed and direct loans. The agency also owns a number of foreclosed homes.

One of the USDA’s new initiatives includes encouraging its rural development offices to direct a certain type of loan, called community facilities program financing, to nonprofits hoping to develop transitional housing.

However, this type of loan is already available to Indiana nonprofits.

And despite Indiana’s opioid crisis and reported need for such programs, many of the USDA’s other plans won’t come to the state in the near future.

For example, since Indiana’s rural development office doesn’t manage its USDA-owned, foreclosed properties, the state isn’t eligible for another new program that would allow non-profits to offer those homes to recovering drug users -- at least not yet.

Philip Lehmkuhler, the state’s director of USDA Rural Development, says he’ll be watching the new programs closely.

“After we get that up and going and work out all the problems we have with that, then [we can] open it up hopefully to states like Indiana,” he says.

Lehmkuhler says Indiana could definitely use more rural housing.

“This is something we need in Indiana,” he says. “We have a lot of communities that have a high opioid use. People think it’s an urban problem, it’s not an urban problem, it’s a rural and urban problem.”

Beth Keeney, Senior Vice President at Lifespring Health Systems, which provides housing services to recovering Hoosiers in six counties, agrees with Lehmkuhler. She says funding for transitional housing has been drying up, even as the need is growing in rural areas, such as Scott County.

“Part of what we have found in working with that population is they are all unstably housed for the most part,” she says. “They don’t really have good alternatives to transition to once they are sober.”

Lehmkuhler says the success of those programs will affect whether they’ll be made available in Indiana.