Social workers honored for dedication to help homeless youth in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– More than 20 high school social workers were recognized on Wednesday for their work to help homeless youth in Indianapolis.

The group of workers from IPS, Lawrence and Washington township high schools were celebrated and honored at Outreach Indiana’s ‘Hallways of Hope’ event.

This year, they helped more than 45 homeless high school students earn their diplomas.

“We provide the educational support, the emotional support and help them with resources,” said Felecia Hawkins, G.O.A.L manager for Outreach. “We assist them with any of their needs but we also try to hold them accountable for their academics and encourage them to stay in school and graduate.”

Outreach’s G.O.A.L program empowers students who are struggling with homelessness while working to get an education.

According to the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, there were nearly 87 homeless youth in Marion County in July 2017. Of those individuals, 40 percent were experiencing abuse.

“Often, the problem is hidden as youth and young adults avoid adult shelters, evade the foster and juvenile justice systems, and act on fear that they cannot achieve adult expectations,” said Alan Witchey, the executive director of CHIP.  “Annually, more than 2,250 youth and young adults ages 12 to 24 experience homelessness in Indianapolis without a parent or guardian, of which more than 400 are unaccompanied minors.”

Hawkins said helping these homeless youth recognize their value is crucial to their success.

“I feel like a big barrier is how they see themselves,” said Hawkins. “If I’m a victim of homelessness and drug abuse and addiction, I may not feel as good about myself. Our focus many times is to pour in, encourage them to know that they are valuable; that they are loved and that they can do anything they aspire to do.”

Wednesday’s award ceremony was focused on the social workers and Outreach staff. On Saturday, the group of 45 graduates will be honored.

To learn more about youth homelessness in Central Indiana, click here.

To learn more about Outreach Indiana, click here.