We’re moving! We’ll be located at 2955 North Meridian Street, Suite 250, Indianapolis, 46208 starting June 1. Reach us at kids@indysow.org and 317.202.9100.

Have you ever wondered why School on Wheels provides tutoring at so many different times and on different days, depending on the location? The short answer is that we build our programs to meet the needs of those we serve. The long answer is, well, it’s really long.

Homelessness looks different to each family experiencing it. For some, job loss, a family tragedy or natural disaster may have caused them to lose their home, but only temporarily. Other families may be caught in a cycle of moving from temporary home to temporary home. This cycle can be the product of many factors, including fleeing domestic violence, a parent with a disability who is unable to work, mental illness and sometimes substance abuse. However, there is no one reason a family becomes homeless.Homelessness is caused by the compounded effects of numerous experiences in one’s life. You can read more about how a family can become homeless here.

Because homelessness is caused by so many factors, there are many different types of shelters and support networks for those experiencing it. School on Wheels works with 13 different partner sites, including both emergency and transitional shelters and schools.  Each supports people experiencing homelessness in different ways.

Emergency Shelters

As defined by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an emergency shelter is a facility whose primary purpose is to provide temporary or transitional shelter for the homeless in general or for specific populations of the homeless for a period of 90 days or less.

The emergency shelters we work with cater to families and some specifically to women and children experiencing homelessness. Emergency shelter partners include Dayspring Center, Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis and Salvation Army Ruth Lilly Women and Children’s Center. In addition to meeting the basic needs of those living there, these shelters provide services to help transition these individuals into more stable living situations.

Transitional Living Shelter

As defined by HUD, transitional housing is a facility designed to provide housing and appropriate supportive services to homeless persons to facilitate movement to independent living. The housing is short-term, typically less than 24 months. In addition to providing safe housing for those in need, other services are available to help participants become self-sufficient.

We work with three shelter that are strictly transitional: Salvation Army Barton Center, Wellspring Cottage and Coburn Place Safe Haven. We also work with several other shelters that are part transitional and part emergency, meaning they serve both of the populations served above, depending on the needs of the individuals. These partner tutoring locations include The Julian Center and Wheeler Mission Center for Women and Children.


Diverse children of all socioeconomic backgrounds attend school, and as an education program, it’s a natural fit for School on Wheels to provide tutoring at school locations. School on Wheels works with two Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS 14 and IPS 54) and two schools in Washington Township (Greenbriar and Fox Hill). 2015 -2016 enrollment in Indianapolis Public Schools was 29,583 and 68% of those children received free meals. Enrollment in Washington Township schools is less than half that at 11,278 students, but the percentage who receive free lunch is still high at 51%.

The students we serve in schools may live in emergency or transitional shelters, but some may not receive benefits from any shelter. Instead, they may live doubled up with friends or family, live in motels or even in cars. The schools we partner with have school social workers who identify students to participate in tutoring.

We work with so many types of partners who all serve people experiencing homelessness in different ways. This means we have to create flexible programs that work best for both our partners and the children and families we serve. That’s why we have lunch time programs at some of our schools and after school tutoring at other schools. All tutoring at our shelter partners happens after school, but takes place on different days and at different times. We need to work around transportations schedules, room availability, meal times and more to make tutoring possible.

We depend on our partners to help us connect with the children and families we serve. We’re lucky to have such great partners who work hand-in-hand with us. Their collaboration, communication and dedication ensures that School on Wheels can offer the most robust and impactful academic programs possible. Breaking the cycle of homelessness is truly a community effort!

Want to join us breaking the cycle of homelessness in Indianapolis? Make a donation today!