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Youth and young adult homelessness gets increased attention

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Those who work in the thankless jobs of advocating for and helping people experiencing homelessness have found a pleasant surprise recently: More people seem to care about youth and young adult homelessness right now.

Indianapolis Housing Agency announced a voucher program in August for young adults who have aged out of the foster care system.

Lutheran Child & Family Services broke ground Nov. 17 on a housing project — Pando Aspen Grove of Community Heights — for young adults who have experienced homelessness.

The city of Indianapolis and the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) recently doled out almost $4 million in grants to help end youth and young adult homelessness in Marion County.

This is more attention than what’s typically given to youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, so where is it coming from?

One of the common denominators in those and other similar programs is money.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is funding Indianapolis Housing Agency’s voucher program, which has room for up to 25 people each year and includes financial support for as long as 36 months. HUD also funded the grants CHIP and the city awarded as part of its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP).

Brian Paul, who’s on the homeless and housing resource team at Adult and Child Mental Health Center, said he noticed more organizations trying to get in on funding from HUD, especially as the government agency seems to be dedicating more resources aimed at youth and young adult homelessness.

Adult and Child partnered with Outreach to create Youth Link, which received YHDP funding. Youth Link will identify youth and young adults who need housing assistance and connect them to resources.

Indianapolis also used some of its pandemic relief funds from the federal government to provide up to 12 months of rental assistance and wraparound services. The city laid out a plan in 2018 to end homelessness by 2023.

There were 142 people under 25 years old experiencing homelessness when CHIP conducted its annual Youth and Young Adult Point-in-Time Count in November 2019. Most were 18 and older, and about 63% were African American.

CHIP recently concluded the 2020 count, and data should come by the end of the year.

Amy Gibson, youth planning manager at CHIP, also suspects more funding from HUD is behind the recent surge in attention. Plus, she said, more funding allows for a collaborative approach, which can lead to more organizations getting involved.

Sven Schumacher, executive director and CEO at Lutheran Child & Family Services, has a more emotional explanation, at least when it comes to the inspiration for the Pando housing project.

Lutheran helps children who are abused and neglected. There’s a group home with 10 young men where they work on independent living skills. Invariably, though, some leave the program and end up homeless because they don’t have housing options or their plans fall through. The COVID-19 pandemic could exacerbate those problems.

“There isn’t that next safety net,” Schumacher said.

Scheduled to open in April 2021, Pando is a housing-first approach to homelessness, meaning the priority is to get people into housing and then provide support for other issues, rather than the other way around. There will be 30 one-bedroom apartments, as well as community space, a food pantry and offices for service providers. Residents must be 18 to 24 years old.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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