Letter: Homeless teens need safe housing alternatives

To the editor:

Since the launch of Brown County’s Homeless Teen Task Force this past winter, I have been approached several times by students anxious to tell me their stories.

Yesterday, I was contacted by a student who, for very good reasons, was terrified to go home. Within two hours of hearing from him, we were able to put into play, to great effect, the resources that the Brown County Homeless Teen Task Force has identified as crucial to the support of this child and others like him.

Community members, professionals and businesses responded instantly with kindness and generosity to the needs of this overwhelmed and frightened boy.

The only thing that we are missing for this child is long-term transitional housing. This option would enable him to stay away from his home environment so he can experience consistent, mature, adult support and caring.

A few weeks ago, the task force welcomed Eric Howard of Outreach Indiana in Indianapolis to our meeting. He told us that our rate of homeless children is above the national average and that our 66-plus known students represent only about one-third of the total Brown County children that are homeless or needing to transition from an abusive living situation to a healthy one. Weekly, the number of these children known to us increases by at least one.

Our community desperately needs foster parents. Until recently, Brown County had only one set of foster parents to serve the needs of abandoned or abused children, but that family is leaving the county.

In our first meetings of the task force, several people offered to provide housing for our students, and some adults are already providing support and housing for these kids, which can be dangerous for the family and/or the homeless child if not approached with the support of specialists. What we learned from speaking with DCS and Guardian Ad Litem is that there are specific legal issues and training involved for individuals, couples and families desiring to provide temporary or long-term housing for one of our homeless children.

If you are a potential foster parent or someone willing to provide temporary housing for a teen in crisis, the task force is hosting an information session for the public on Tuesday, June 14 at 6 p.m. at Creekside Retreat on State Road 46, behind the Circle K. We will be discussing appropriate pathways and training programs for becoming a foster parent or temporary housing and personal support.

For information, contact me at 812-219-6001 or plkrahnke@gmail.com; or contact Larry Hanson at 317-418-7771 or lhanson@bcdemocrat.com.

Patricia Krahnke, Brown County

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