Johnson County homelessness rates increase in recent years

By Emma Gibson
Staff Reporter

In just the past year, there has been an eight percent increase in the number of homeless individuals in Indianapolis. Out of 1,682 people, 15 percent were counted as 17 or younger; about 80 percent of that number are women who were escaping domestic violence and four women were counted as pregnant, according to ibj.com.

An issue that many people don’t understand is that there are students who are in grades of all levels who are without a home. Often that affects graduation rates and more. Out of all the staff in a school, counselors receive the most information about homelessness. WCHS Counselor Kelly Rose said the possible reasoning behind why certain students may not be able to graduate because battling homelessness or an unstable home environment.

“Homeless students can be affected in many ways. If they don’t have a source of water, they can’t take showers, brush their teeth, or clean their clothes. Some students are working 40 hours in addition to school to help pay the family bills,” Rose said.

With students working an almost full-time job and trying to help provide for their family or even just themselves, they have a lot of stress, and school may be the last thing on their mind. School can be very challenging for students who don’t get the needed amount of sleep because they are unable to focus or even just stay awake. The negative effect of this is that the student would not be able to pay attention and understand the material in the class, which could cause failure.

“There is data that shows homeless youth are at a greater risk of not graduating. Students get behind and it becomes increasingly more difficult to catch up,” Rose said.

Police officer Chris Speers works through the Whiteland Police Department, as well as being a volunteer at Whiteland Community High School.

As a police officer, Speers has been able to work with homeless individuals more, and has witnessed behaviors from those in Johnson County who may be struggling with alcohol/substance abuse or even someone going through hard times in life.

A key factor is that the individual wants the freedom of someone who has a stable job, income and home, but they allow their addiction or their mental illness to control them.

“The two are hand and hand, mental illness and homelessness. It’s a choice; on one hand they don’t want to be homeless, on the other hand it’s almost like it’s the freedom they need to not be confined to day to day structure,” Speers said.

The town of Whiteland is small but can help those who may be struggling financially by donating to a program called Kic-it, which is located in Franklin Indiana. This program has a wish list of needed items on their website https://www.kic-it.org/, and they are grateful for volunteers as well as donations.

Another way that students can help those in need is through Warrior Wardrobe and donations to a local food pantry.

“Clothing, shoes and food can be donated at the high school front office or the Academy,” Rose said.

For students who are financially unstable or homeless and need food, a nearby resource is the Interchurch Food Pantry of Johnson County. Students in need can also speak with counselors and teachers for additional assistance.

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