Homeless census Youth Count Indy underway

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A week-long homelessness study is underway in Indianapolis, specifically directed toward counting the number of children and teens without secure housing.

Earlier this year, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) reported that 1,700 Indianapolis residents are homeless. CHIP reports that number as the highest in three years, with a 10 percent increase last year alone. While officials say they cannot pinpoint a specific reason for the uptick, they do suspect an increase in underage homelessness.

Those numbers include Desmond, 23, who became homeless seven years ago at age 16.

“Right now I’m living out of my car,” said Desmond in an interview provided by CHIP. “I’m studying web development and trying to find work.”

As a high school student, his struggle every day wasn’t only with academic success or making friends.

“Hygiene is a big thing for me. It’s difficult,” he said. ” To have a place where you can shower, clean up, be presentable.”

Alan Witchey, executive director for CHIP, noted homeless youth like Desmond are becoming more common, and thinks the increase in recent city homelessness numbers may connect to youth homelessness.

“This is a big problem and a growing problem in our community,” he said.

This week, Witchey’s organization is kicking off a city-wide headcount called Youth Count Indy 2017 to discover how many youth under the age of 24 are homeless. They’re working with youth service providers like Outreach, Inc., Indiana Youth Group, and Stopover, Inc. He says they’re holding “magnet activities” and partnering with shelters and hospitals like Eskenazi Health to identify and count the young homeless population.

Paul Babcock, interim director of the city’s Office of Public Health and Safety, says this data will help several organizations provide more useful aid to the population.

“The numbers will help us to direct services and programs and opportunities to engage [homeless youth]. Whether that’s vocational, academic, housing stability or health,” he said.

Babcock also says the data could help them understand and overcome the barriers some kids have towards receiving help, such as a distrust of adults trying to reach out. That’s a situation Desmond said he has experienced personally.

“I was really kind of hesitant at first to get help, do things,” Desmond said. “Just a kind of general distrust of help, I don’t know.”

The study is expected to conclude Friday.

If you know a young adult who may be homeless, CHIP officials recommend calling 211 for names and numbers of specific agencies that can provide food, housing, laundry, counseling or health services. Some are also listed below:

  • Outreach, Inc.: 877-686-3818
  • Julian Center Domestic Violence Crisis Line: 317-920-9320
  • Indiana Youth Group (LGBT resources): 317-541-8726

Some agency phone numbers may only connect to a representative during weekdays or during daytime hours.

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