INDIANAPOLIS — Inside the walls of a home are more than just rooms and furniture, it’s meant to be a place of safety and security.
However, for many area youth and young adults, that’s not always the case.
“We get calls in the middle of the night, like, ‘Hey I just got kicked out,’ or ‘Hey, this happened,’ and it’s like, ‘Where do we go?’” said Kia Wright, executive director and founder of VOICES.
Wright, who has a background in juvenile probation, started VOICES 12 years ago. Through the organization, she’s helped reach countless youth in programming through the arts while addressing its four pillars of healed, educated, creative and disciplined.
“That is, for us, that holistic view of developing youth and families and communities,” Wright said. “Communities know how to heal and know how to thrive on their own, they just need access and support.”
In working with area youth and community partners, Wright said a common barrier for many is poverty, especially when it comes to access to adequate housing.
“We can do all of the amazing programs, but if they don’t have a place to lay their head, then it’s not going to be sustainable,” said Wright.
On Monday, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, joined by Wright and other community leaders, announced its latest initiative to combat one of the root causes of violence through its youth housing grant.
As part of the mayor’s $150-million violence reduction plan, $4.2 million will go to VOICES and 91 Place. Over the next three years, both groups will work to provide and expand opportunities for transitional and emergency housing, along with increased wraparound services.
For VOICES, the funding will help secure four living spaces for emergency shelter and transitional housing for up to 22 youth. The housing will be available for ages 14-24.
Wright said they also plan to offer 24-hour staff for on-site services and resources.
“Everything is in house. We have the mentoring, we have your home-based therapy, we have resources for transportation and food,” she said. “It’s not meant to be permanent; it’s meant to get you on your way.”
“Each house will have a different set of max. They can stay up to a year in transitional housing, especially for our returning citizens from Department of Corrections,” said Wright. “Emergency shelter care is to capture that younger group that are more transient, and they can stay up to 90 days, and we’ll be able to support them and try to find some more permanent solutions.”
91 Place, which is on the city’s east side, is a transitional housing facility and allows youth to stay for up to two years. Organizers plan to use the money to secure two new homes and add eight more beds for transitional housing. This would be available for ages 16-24. Organizers also plan to expand mental health services for high-risk youth by 50%, along with adding more professional staffing in needed areas throughout the community.
Wright hopes others understand that it truly takes a village to help communities thrive, even if it means building your own.
“It really is that village mentality,” she said. “There’s too many young people in this city that need help for one organization, and so I’m hoping that these kinds of partnerships will just show that we just need more of that kind of collaboration.”