For many of us, January 24, 2018 was an average winter day. The rest of the week had highs in the 40s and 50s, but this particular Wednesday’s temperature never reached above freezing. On this one day, 1,682 individuals in Indianapolis were identified as experiencing homelessness. According to the Point-in-Time count conducted by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute and CHIP, there were 128 families, 80% of whom had fled home that day to escape violence from an intimate partner.
It’s now October and we, like many of our community partners, are reflecting on the reality of homelessness, domestic violence, and the horrors of both that some of the families within our programs have endured. In the United States, between 22% and 57% of all women experiencing homelessness report domestic violence as the immediate cause of becoming homeless. And among mothers with children, over 80% had experienced domestic violence. Indy’s numbers look a lot like the nation’s, and these figures are unacceptable.
Fortunately for our community, we have incredible resources and safe havens to help. We are proud to partner with organizations that help serve families in their most vulnerable moments.
The Julian Center empowers survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault to recover and rebuild a life for themselves and their families, free from abuse. They advance their mission to end the generational cycle of violence with both compassion and advocacy. Six years ago, we teamed up to help. When we first started the School on Wheels tutor hour at Julian, there were three students once a week. Today, there are more than 20, three days a week.
Coburn Place strives to have a city where every adult and child may live free from intimate partner violence – housed stably, safely, and with adequate financial resources. We have been working with them for the past 12 years, providing trained volunteer tutors to help children in the shelter maintain or improve their grades and guide parents to be the best advocate for their child’s education.
Wheeler Mission has been serving the Indianapolis community for 125 years. Their Women & Children Center services take a holistic approach to families experiencing homelessness in our community with mental, emotional, and spiritual support. We joined the Wheeler team with our volunteer tutoring program 13 years ago to help provide educational support and consistency for the children during their brief stay at the shelter.
Because there are many causes of family homelessness, there is a spectrum of need within Indianapolis. Improving our understanding and adjusting our programs to fit these needs is critical to better serving the children we work with each week.
Lack of affordable housing and extreme poverty also impact the number of families experiencing homelessness across the country and in Indianapolis. Whether the numbers are gathered through a point-in-time count or collected throughout the year, the numbers of families experiencing homelessness are alarming and the impact of homelessness on every member of the family can linger for years without intervention.
The greatest link between children who have experienced homelessness and ending the cycle of poverty has been education. That is why our mission is to provide one-on-one tutoring and advocacy for children impacted by homelessness, to better equip them with the educational tools they need to achieve success, in and out of the classroom. For 17 years, we’ve been working with local shelters, schools, and hundreds of families to make sure the students’ individual academic milestones are met while at their most vulnerable to fall behind in school.
After their first few nights in an emergency shelter, we ask families participating in our program several questions so that we may get to know them better and find other ways we may help. One of the questions we ask is, “Do you feel safe?” We reviewed the 2017-2018 school year numbers, and got a short, powerful answer. 99% said, “yes.”
We have 40 more kids in our program already this year, with new students enrolling every week. There are lots of ways you can get involved to support our growing needs. Check out opportunities here, and check in with us on our social channels! We have a lot of fun events coming up soon.