Out of the Woods: Evansville Homeless Have Help


Two homeless men in the middle of Evansville look for a new place to stay after their path to a backyard tent is tied off.

A worn out welcome from a man who’s not short on sympathy.

“They won’t clean up,” says Kenny Barr, “When I first moved in, I let them stay there awhile, then I told them they had to leave and they keep coming back.”

He owns the house and the land where Ronnie Story and Kevin Willis were staying, tucked in near Weinbach and Pollack. They are two homeless men Eyewitness News met last week for a story on homelessness.

The homeless count in Evansville is somewhere around 450 to 500 people, according to Aurora. Officials say it’s the highest rate in the state of Indiana, per capita.

Sewn together in pinch, the path to a home for the homeless Storey and Willis is off limits again. “I’ve patched it up three times,” says Barr, “they keep cutting it back open again.”

Storey says he’s only been staying in the spot for about four months. Barr says he’s let homeless people stay in the woods for a couple of years.

Being in the great outdoors is sometimes all a homeless person wants to do, says Joshua Nichols with the Evansville Rescue Mission. “Some people don’t want to give up the space they have, that’s their spot, that’s where they want to stay.”

On the outside looking in, a shelter is one resource Ronnie and Kevin have. There are shelters willing to take them in for food and rest if they follow the rules.

Evansville Rescue Mission and United Caring Services both check for alcohol with a breathalyzer test before entering. “For us it’s becomes a matter of safety,” Nichols adds.

Where UCS lets anyone in for food, officials say they reserve the right to deny a bed to anyone causing problems. Rescue Mission won’t allow anyone inside with any alcohol content registering on the breathalyzer. Nichols says it’s been a guideline at the shelter for 100 years.

On white flag days when the temperatures are below freezing, the standards are relaxed a bit. So long as they aren’t physically abusive, UCS says they’ll allow anyone to stay, regardless.

UCS Executive Director, Jason Emmerson says substance abuse for the homeless can be a hard habit to break, but he is working to build more resources to help. Rescue Mission will help by giving a to-go box to anyone on drugs or alcohol.

“We certainly care about them,” Nichols says, “we certainly care about everybody in the community, those who are disadvantaged.”

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