INDIANAPOLIS — City leaders are aiming for a huge goal: to end homelessness in Indianapolis by 2023. Their plan is spelled out in the Continuum of Care which states no person or family who becomes homeless will spend more than 30 days without “a permanent, safe, affordable place to live.”
“If somebody has a housing crisis and ends up in a shelter or on the streets, that they are connected to housing in 30 days or less,” Chelsea Haring-Cozzi, Indy’s Coalition of Homelessness Intervention & Prevention (CHIP), said. “That people don’t spend more time homeless, that they’re not homeless for a long time. Once connected to housing that they’re supported in that housing in a way that doesn’t default into a return to homelessness or a loss of that housing. That’s really what ending homelessness means is we can try to prevent and divert more people from having a homeless experience, and for anyone that does have a homeless experience, it’s short-lived.”
The city received $3.88 million in funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program. This two-year program helps support local communities’ coordinated approaches to preventing and ending youth homelessness.
This funding is being dispersed to six local programs. The hope is the success they see over the next two years will lead to renewed resources for the programs. CHIP details the plan for each of the programs:
- Youth Link: Adult and Child Health and Outreach have partnered on the new Youth Link project. The organizations will use the YHDP funding to support identification of youth and young adults who need housing assistance, while also helping to navigate coordinated entry and connect clients to resources like health benefits, education, and employment.
- Damien Center: Indiana’s oldest and largest AIDS service organization, Damien Center and its Housing Assistance Program will utilize the grant for a new initiative to assist youth and young adults ages 18-24 including those parenting or pregnant and regardless of HIV status, by providing stable, independent housing. This paired with community connections, youth-driven supportive services, and housing case managers who identify as LGBTQ+ and some who have experienced homelessness will support their unique needs and independent goals for success and resilience.
- Project Prism: A new program funded through the YHDP grant, Project Prism is a partnership between HealthNet’s Homeless Initiative Program (HIP) and Indiana Youth Group (IYG). Launched in October, the program provides up to two years of rent assistance and other supportive social services to individuals ages 18-24.
- Stopover, Inc.: Stopover has been serving at-risk, runaway, and homeless youth for more than 50 years. This organization plans to use YHDP grant money to provide youth and young adults with safe and inclusive transitional crisis housing, combined with long-term housing support. Young clients will also be connected to supportive services that will help them maintain permanent housing status.
- Trinity Haven: A nonprofit that provides safe, welcoming, and affirming housing for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults, Trinity Haven will utilize the funding to launch its Host Homes Program (HHP). Planned for the spring of 2021, HHP will provide safe, temporary homes for approximately six months where a young person has time to repair relationships with family, when possible, or make decisions about alternative housing options with the assistance of a housing case manager.
- Diversion Project: CHIP is contracting with Outreach on this project to assist youth and young adults in avoiding literal homelessness, specifically by focusing on immediate housing crisis resolution and housing stabilization. Diversion specialists will provide supports to help connect young people experiencing housing instability to permanent housing options more quickly or self-resolve existing barriers, while also linking to other community resources.
Keaun Brown serves on the Youth Action Board, which is made up of young people who are either homeless now or were homeless. The 18-year-old helps CHIP write legislation and gives them a transparent viewpoint regarding the plight of people who are experiencing homelessness.
“It’s not an issue of quickly donating your time, it’s not an issue of trying to put a band aid on a gash,” Brown explained. “It’s a much more deeper wound that will take a far greater time to heal. The only way to do that is for a proper distribution of resources to communities, such as my own.”
Brown is now a college student and is grateful he can give back to his community. He helps people understand what solutions are needed to end youth homelessness.
“When you have these programs that if nothing else can stop you from getting evicted at that exact moment, if nothing else can make sure that your lights stay on, if nothing else can make sure that in that exact same moment, your dire, most immediate needs are met, it makes the long term solution of getting out of the poverty cycle, that much easier and that much more streamline,” Brown said.