It is a startling fact that an estimated 7,800 youth experience homelessness in our city every year. Seven thousand, eight hundred. These aren’t just statistics; they represent the lives of young people, each with a story, a dream, and the potential to thrive if given the opportunity. The shock factor lies in the magnitude of this issue – the magnitude of despair, isolation, and uncertainty that thousands of our city’s youth grapple with daily.
This month is Youth Homelessness Awareness Month, and it serves a reminder of the urgency of our cause. It’s an opportunity to See the Unseen. It’s an invitation to all of us to stand together, to raise our voices, and to take action. The reality is that, despite the numbers, we have the power to change the course of these young lives. It’s about showing them that they matter, that they have a place in our community, and that we will not turn our backs on them.
Youth who face homelessness are often not seen due to their unique living situations. Many people often think of homelessness as staying on the streets or in a shelter, but the reality is many youth who’ve come to Outreach are doubling up with friends or acquaintances, couch surfing, or sleeping in cars.
Of the 668 youths we have walked alongside this year, 284 have been couch surfing/doubled up, and 51 have been or are staying in their vehicle or abandoned house. That is 50% of the youth that come to Outreach who have been in living situations that leave them unseen and underrepresented.
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of working in high schools, after a year-long pause, we are relaunching our ARCH (Advocacy, Relationship, Coaching in High Schools) program, and we are actively working in IPS, Lawrence, Washington, and Pike township schools. The ARCH program works alongside students facing housing insecurity and provides them with the support and guidance they need to reach graduation and other goals they may have.
This Youth Homelessness Awareness Month, let us stand together and create a wave of change. At Outreach, we strive to see, know, and love every youth who walks through our doors, and there are thousands more youth who still need to be seen. It’s crucial for us to acknowledge that youth homelessness looks vastly different than what we may believe it to be.
You will see billboards, you will hear radio ads, and you may come across Outreach’s social channels that are bringing light to some of the key issues and experiences these youth may face. Your support is a testament to your belief in the potential of these young people. It’s a call to action, a beacon of hope, and a demonstration of your commitment to making Indianapolis a place where every youth has a safe and stable place to call home.