INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – You might walk right past a youth on the street and not even realize he or she is experiencing homelessness.
In 2017, there were more than 2,200 homeless youth in Indianapolis alone, according to the Indiana Youth Group.
There are services in every major area of the state, and now more help is on the way.
In just three weeks, a new state law goes into effect that is designed to help, in a new way, the thousands of kids in Indiana experiencing homelessness.
“It’s a problem we don’t talk about,” Chris Paulsen, CEO of The Indiana Youth Group explained. “You don’t see the youth. They’re very good at hiding. They know if they get caught up in the system, the system has a bad reputation.”
Often their parents are miles or even states away. Some parents won’t help at all, leaving the teens with no identification or personal documents.
“Our identification is what gets us through life,” Paulsen said. “You need an ID to apply for a job, to apply for an apartment, to apply for services for homeless youth. You have to have identification.”
“Without that ID, they’re stuck,” Jason Chenoweth, CEO of Outreach, Inc added. “I mean, they were just completely trapped.”
Governor Eric Holcomb signed a bill into law that allows a youth between the ages of 16 and 18 who is experiencing homelessness to obtain a birth certificate, ID or driver’s license without a parent or guardian’s consent.
“We don’t have to track that down,” Chenoweth said. “We’re able, if a youth needs help, we can get them their ID, which then opens everything up in front of them.”
Paulsen championed the law this past legislative session.
“We’ll be able to accompany the youth experiencing homelessness to the BMV or to the Health Department to get their birth certificate, or help register them for the high school equivalency exam,” Paulsen said.
Currently, if a youth wanted all these documents, it would cost roughly $143. But they will be completely free when the new law goes into effect.
“Every piece that it takes for a youth to move out of a situation where they’re homeless, starts with this documentation.” Chenoweth said.
CHIP, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention has ways to donate online if you would like to help the homeless youth, as do the Indiana Youth Group, and Outreach, Inc.