Teens and Young Adults are Homeless?!

January 30, 2024 | Pamela Ackerman

ZPC MISSIONS MOMENT – Learn. Be inspired. Serve!

Imagine being a teenager and not being able to go home. You slept on your friend’s couch the last two nights. Tonight’s bed will probably be your car. No food, no job, trying to stay in school… it’s a precarious, desperate way to live. This is where Outreach can step in to help.

Unfortunately, this situation is not an isolated one for many young people. According to Outreach, an estimated 7,800 Marion County youth face homelessness each year. Outreach strives to empower 14- to 24-year-olds to move beyond homelessness. 

Mike and Sandy Nolan are two volunteers from ZPC who have found their “volunteering home” with Outreach. Outreach’s three program centers, located on the near Eastside, the Southside, and the Northeast Side, provide help with immediate needs including providing hot meals, clothing, shower and laundry facilities, and housing resources, but then go many steps beyond by providing counseling, a computer lab, peer support, and general assistance.

Mike and Sandy emphasize that, while Outreach provides for the many physical needs these young people may have, spending time with them is paramount. The teens and young adults come from difficult, unstable situations in which they may have experienced trauma, as well as possible rejection from their family and/or from other students at school. The staff and volunteers are focused on building caring relationships so that the youth feel seen, known, and loved.

The Nolans became involved with Outreach for different reasons, but both felt it to be an answer to prayer. During Sandy’s 30 years as an IPS Educator, she saw homeless students in her classroom and the negative effect that challenging life had on them. She was also moved by students in the welfare system who, at age 18, no longer receive support nor services. When she discovered that Outreach helps 14- to 24-year-olds, she said, “I need to be there.”

Mike, on the other hand, sought a way to serve after retirement and eventually chose Outreach. He felt empowered by Matthew 25:35-40, and was especially convicted by verse 45: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

The love both Mike and Sandy have for the youth they’ve spent time with is palpable. He states that he never realized how much service would change him. Because of serving, he finds that he and Sandy have more discussions about the Bible and their faith, and that he is involved more deeply in reading, studying, and teaching the Bible.

Many service opportunities for both individuals and groups exist at Outreach’s Program Centers. Sorting clothes for the clothing pantry, driving young people to get their Social Security card or birth certificate, serving a meal, or assisting with various administrative projects, are all possible ways to make a difference in the lives of these vulnerable youth.

The first step? Take a personalized guided tour to see the facility and get to know the opportunities available. Contact Jennifer Ebner, Outreach Volunteer Manager, at . Interested in preparing and/or serving a meal? Contact Sandy Nolan at .