Among the many tragic stories LaVon Donigan Bradley has heard since starting working at Outreach Indiana – a faith-based nonprofit that helps homeless teens and young adults – one stands out.
This is a 20-year-old man who visited his mother about a month ago. He wanted to tell her about a camping trip he had just taken. Instead, he found her lying in a pool of blood in her apartment. She received four bullets.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Bradley recalls asking the young man a few days later when they met at the headquarters of Outreach Indiana on the east side of Indianapolis.
The young man, whose name has not been released for confidentiality reasons, is among several dozen homeless teens and young adults, aged 14 to 24, who come to the center for a range of services, from the most basic needs, such as food, clothing, and a shower, to long-term assistance, such as college and job applications, mental health counseling and mentoring. Many have never had or lost their identity card, social security card and birth certificate.
Many live on the streets, in camps and homeless shelters, but the majority are couch-surfers like the young man. Many, like him, are no strangers to violence and tragedy, Bradley said. Some are in the foster care system. Some have escaped broken homes, dangerous relationships and abusive parents. Some are parents themselves.
Outreach Indiana is their refuge – a place not only to put their life in order, but also to escape, to find a replacement parent in youth coaches like Bradley.
“Sometimes they just want to come in and let off steam and talk,” she said. “They have a lot to do.”
Outreach Indiana was started 25 years ago by Eric Howard, who, then in his twenties, began handing out bottled water and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the back of his van at Broad Ripple after noticing several homeless children hanging out under the bridge next door. the main band.
The organization grew and in 2017 it opened its headquarters on East New York Street. Devin Miller, director of the Indiana Outreach program center, said the need for services has increased. Last year, around 20 homeless adolescents and young adults came to the center every day. That number has since tripled, Miller said.
When his mother was killed, the young man had just started taking classes at Ivy Tech Community College. He had just obtained good accommodation to stop couch surfing.
“Then it happened,” Bradley said.
He didn’t have much to say to Bradley when she asked him if he wanted to talk about his mother’s death. Like other young men, society conditioned him to suppress his feelings, to be harsh.
“He didn’t know how to cope,” Bradley said. “He’s angry, hurt, but he didn’t know how to treat it.”
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In a group session where teens and young adults share their feelings, the young man watched a peer talk about his own struggles, Bradley recalls.
“Having someone else talk about it,” she said, “made her realize that everything was fine.”
He realized it was okay to be angry, in pain, to let people know he was in pain, and to trust someone with those feelings, Bradley said.
Now, she said, every time she sees the young man he hugs her.
What is the mission of your organization?
Outreach Indiana provides basic services to homeless teens and young adults and connects them with mentors who help them build relationships. The end goal is to help them develop the social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual skills necessary for a better and more stable life.
How many people do you serve?
Miller, director of the Indiana Outreach program center, said 50 to 60 teens and young adults in need of help come to the center each day.
What is your # 1 need?
Every young adult comes to Outreach Indiana with a need for something different, but bus passes are among the most common needs, Miller said. Many young adults do not have other means of transportation to get to school, job interviews, etc.
The center is also still in need of hygiene products, Miller said. Many of the young adults served by the center have not learned even the most basic life skills, such as how to wash their clothes.
How can people get involved?
Go to the site, awarenessindiana.org, for volunteer opportunities.
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