Youth Homelessness Up, Advocates Say

Statistics: More Children Homeless In Indiana Than In Years Past

Child advocates say the number of homeless children in Indiana is at a staggering level and is increasing by the year.

The Indiana Youth Institute said that because the economy is still sluggish, the number of children sleeping in cars, bouncing between the homes of friends and family members and shelters grows each year.

"The No. 1 thing we need to do is create public awareness. We all need to be talking about this and be aware of this so that these homeless children don't become invisible," said Bill Stanczykiewicz of IYI.

Indiana public schools reported a 12 percent increase in the number of homeless students. The figures are based on the amount of children who are helped by federal services.

Statistics showed there were more than 8,400 homeless students during 2007-2008 school year, up from a little more than 7,500 in the 2005-2006 school year.

IYI officials said the federal tracking system did not include the estimated 5,400 kids under the age of 6 who aren’t served by public schools.

Outreach Inc., on Indianapolis' east side, is a drop in center that helps homeless teens "that functions as a one-stop shop so they can come in and get food, clothing, basic first aid, take a shower, do their laundry, talk to a case manager,” said Eric Howard, executive director of Outreach Inc.

Howard said the organization saw a jump in the number of children who rely on "survival sex."

“A significant majority of our youth admitted to being involved in survival sex, which is an exchange of a sexual act, not necessarily for money, although it could be for money, but for a place to stay, for food for shelter, just some place in which they can get off the street,” Howard said.

Organizations that help homeless children say it’s important to get children in school and in federally programs that can help them.

“The entire community can play a role through our volunteer efforts, through our charitable giving. We can all make a difference to help these folks,” said Stanczykiewicz.