On April 17, Outreach, Inc. opened the doors of its New Program Center. An organization that serves the needs of homeless youth in Indianapolis, the new facility allows Outreach to expand its impact. Although according to Outreach CEO Eric Howard, the expansion has been more robust than initially anticipated. “We’ve actually seen an increase of 17.7% in the number of young people we are serving,” he says. Before the opening, they expected only a 10-12% increase, and not so rapidly. Of course, the growth is very exciting to Eric and to the rest of the staff. “In regards to living out our core values of advocacy, sustainability, and relationship, we’re really pressing into those,” he says. “And the facility has helped us to achieve that.”
The new building has private meeting areas, more showers, a food pantry, a clothing pantry, a computer lab, more laundry facilities, and just more space in general. For youth who are accustomed to living on the streets or to couch surfing from place to place, the Program Center offers them a welcome change. Eric says of Outreach’s former Drop-In Center, “Everyone knew your business. There was no place that you could just feel safe to share your story without it being out there for everyone to hear it.” To remedy this, there are now small rooms for the youth to meet with Case Managers or with Legal Clinic Staff Attorneys one-on-one when they are conducting intakes. “That’s huge, even from the mental health perspective,” Eric says, “To be able to pull someone into a private room and just have a conversation about what’s going on.”
Now, former youth served by Outreach are choosing to give back by volunteering. One young lady serves in the clothing pantry, helping to sort through items. Another young man offers his time by cooking meals, taking out the trash, and helping to keep the new facilities clean. Eric says, “That’s his ability to give back. And it’s so cool just to see his energy.” He says that the young man lights up when he tells Eric, “I get to be a part of what changed my life.”
Outreach wants to change the lives of the youth that walk through its doors. And it wants to do so in a manner that reminds them not that they are homeless, but that they are valued and loved. “I think that the facility has created a platform and an environment in which a young person that finds themselves homeless can be seen,” says Eric. Prior to the expansion, some of the high school students participating in the G.O.A.L. education program (Graduation, Occupation, Address, Lifestyle) for at-risk/homeless youth were hesitant to come to the facility. But that has changed. “Our facility doesn’t scream, ‘Hey, I’m homeless.’ Now, it screams, ‘This is just a cool building and I choose to hang out there,’” Eric says. “It raises the level of dignity and worth.”
To learn more about Outreach or to donate to their Move Hope Forward capital campaign, please visit their website now.