INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Leaders behind helping the homeless have begun a new week-long project. The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) will spend the week tallying the number of youth who are experiencing homelessness with the hopes of better understanding the issue.
CHIP will specifically look for people between the ages of 18 and 24. This new count is different than the annual count done each winter, which tallies the overall homeless population in Indianapolis.
Alan Witchey, CHIP's executive director, said many young homeless people are not in town during the winter count because they head south for warmer weather.
"We get about 90 to 100 youth on that traditional point in time count night and we suspect we’ll have a much higher number this week when we do the count," said Witchey.
During the 2017 Point-In-Time Homeless Count, there were 89 youth experiencing homelessness in Indianapolis. Of those, 79 were sheltered and 10 were unsheltered. That count also found an additional 10 percent increase in the homeless population, compared to 2016's count.
People leading the count will hold several social activities during the week to help bring in as many homeless people as possible and go to homeless camps and other areas some might be living.
“Over the last five years, there has been a 60 percent increase in Marion County for youth under the age of 24 that are homeless," said Witchey. "Most of those youth are disproportionately among females and African Americans.”
Monday's kick-off for the count took place at Outreach, Inc., a ministry that targets homeless youth. It's seen a 15 percent increase in the number of young people over the past year.
Outreach founder and CEO Eric Howard said many young homeless people spend a lot of time looking for things that some might usually take for granted.
“They’re looking at where are they going to grab a meal, where can they take a shower, who can they trust," said Howard.
Tallying the number of youth is just the first step. After the data is collected, leaders behind assisting the homeless will look what resources need to be made more available.
“Once we better understand where we are, we can actually implement new strategies and address the situation more holistically," said Witchey.
CHIP provided several other statistics regarding youth homelessness:
- 30% of youth reported a mental illness.
- More than 25% of sheltered youth and 50% of unsheltered youth reported physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
- According to national data reported by HUD in 2016, there were 50,001 young adults aged 18-24 experiencing homelessness in the U.S.
- Young adults experiencing homelessness often face unique challenges. There is a stigma surrounding homelessness that can isolate and ostracize youth experiencing homelessness. They can be at a higher risk for abuse, and health issues than their housed peers. They are also at a greater risk of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and suicide.
- Youth experiencing homelessness also have an increased likelihood of high-risk behaviors, including unprotected sex, multiple sexual partners, drug use and a high risk of being trafficked or exploited.
During his 2017 State of the City Address, Mayor Joe Hogsett said he wanted 400 new permanent housing options for the city's homeless in the next 12 months. A city spokesperson said two Housing Trust Fund grants were awarded in May that will house a little more than 100 people and another announcement is expected in the coming weeks.