Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city.  This year, World Next Door sent a team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation to tell some of the stories from the weekend.

This is one of those stories.

To read all of the Weekend of Service articles, click here.

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Outreach, Inc.

Written by Holly Hochstedler

Photos by Jerrold Hochstedler

Close your eyes for a just a moment.  Picture a homeless person in Indianapolis.  Got the image in your mind? Is it a middle-aged man, unshaven, with rumpled clothing, carrying a tin cup? You might be right.  Now picture the typical teenager down the street. Is it a young girl or boy wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, carrying a backpack? Very likely it is. Did you ever stop to think that the teenager may be the one who is homeless?

On Sunday, October 18th, a group from Grace Community Church volunteered to provide a variety of services at the home of Outreach, Inc. in downtown Indianapolis as a part of the Grace Weekend of Service. Outreach, Inc. reaches out with the love of Christ to help homeless and runaway youth ages 14 to 24 find a safer and more stable life. Kim Luppino, the lovely, intelligent, caring, full-of-life Director of Stewardship, warmly welcomed the Grace volunteers and told them the story of Outreach, Inc.  The home of Outreach, Inc. is literally a house with a living room, a game room, dining room, and kitchen. The Grace volunteers jumped in to “deep clean” that home (vacuuming floors, washing windows, scrubbing bathrooms, polishing woodwork) and caring for the surrounding yard (cutting the grass, pulling weeds, picking up trash.)

Kent Sadler washes the windows at Outreach, Inc. hoping to provide homeless teenagers with a clearer vision of a brighter tomorrow.

Kent Sadler washes the windows at Outreach, Inc. hoping to provide homeless teenagers with a clearer vision of a brighter tomorrow.

Outreach, Inc. is one of the Frontline Ministries of GCC which means that the church is committed to support Covenant Community members who lead ministries that extend God’s Kingdom in the community and around the world. Mark and Melinda Cecil are two members of Grace who have committed themselves to Outreach, Inc. Mark serves as a member of the Board charged with overseeing the operations of the project. Melinda is a hands-on worker every week.  She cleans and does laundry allowing the staff to concentrate more time on working directly with and for the young people.

The Outreach, Inc. mission statement is short and simple: “Equipping and empowering homeless teens and young adults to exit street life.” How do they accomplish that? They reach out to homeless and at-risk young adults with the compassion of Jesus Christ. They provide street outreach, a drop-in center, holistic social services, case management and emergency referral services. They strive to do all these things in an environment of God’s love.

Karen King, Melinda Cecil, and Mary Kay Krambeer sort and inventory clothing donations in order to wrap God’s love around homeless young people.

Karen King, Melinda Cecil, and Mary Kay Krambeer sort and inventory clothing donations in order to wrap God’s love around homeless young people.

Kids may be homeless for a variety of reasons—far different from homeless adults.  They often come from single-parent homes with several siblings. If their parent loses a job they may see themselves as “old enough” to be out on their own and therefore less of a burden to their struggling parent. Perhaps their parents are abusive or addicted to drugs or alcohol or even deceased. They may be at odds with their families or guardians and currently “couch surfing” which means staying with one friend for awhile and then moving on to the home of another.  One was found to be living in an abandoned car.

Sometimes kids are referred to Outreach by a teacher or school counselor who discovered their secret. In Marion and Hamilton counties there are hundreds of young people in need.  At Outreach, approximately 52% of the homeless aged 14 to 24 are female which in opposition to popular national statistics (which indicate more homeless males). With respect to ethnicity, as of 10/15/09, 45% are African-American, 46% are Caucasian, and the remaining 9% come from a variety of cultures.

Jack Morgan and his father, Mitch, work to make the Outreach, Inc. home as welcoming on the outside as the staff inside.

Jack Morgan and his father, Mitch, work to make the Outreach, Inc. home as welcoming on the outside as the staff inside.

Outreach, Inc. is not a “sit-back and wait to see who comes through the door” kind of agency. Every week trained staff and volunteers search for youth in abandoned buildings, parks, wooded areas and under bridges to offer practical assistance like food, clothing, bottled water and first aid. They listen to each story and build the trust necessary to bring change to the lives of the young person. This is the “Street Outreach” portion of the program and those who desire to come off the streets are referred to partner shelters because Outreach is not a live-in facility. Through this combination of listening and meeting physical needs, relationships built on trust are established.

Outreach, Inc. is proud of its G.O.A.L. program which supports homeless and at-risk students with a case manager who focuses on specific needs. Homeless students with no support system usually drop out of high school and stay trapped in the cycle of homelessness. Outreach specifically developed a program to help homeless students Graduate, find an Occupation, an Address and change their Lifestyle. They work with partnering agencies including Indianapolis Public Schools to provide practical and necessary resources like transportation to school, school lunches, textbooks, tutoring, a GED satellite classroom, even caps and gowns — everything necessary for students to earn their diploma.  But the G.O.A.L. services do not stop there because gaps could put the client back at-risk again.  Instead they also train youth how to get a job and keep it. That includes helping them find job openings and getting transportation to interviews. They assist in finding suitable housing and teaching life-skills including budgeting and healthy living. As a result of G.O.A.L., over half of those graduating go on to post-secondary education including college, vocational school and military service.

Tom King imparts his life lesson of the day—Windex cleans anything and that’s the truth!—to Kate Cecil and Grace Krambeer.

Tom King imparts his life lesson of the day—Windex cleans anything and that’s the truth!—to Kate Cecil and Grace Krambeer.

Life changes can begin with very specific needs such as assistance in obtaining ID’s, birth certificates, Social Security cards, transportation passes, receiving leads for jobs or housing, and referrals for medical prenatal programs. Through these initial services, the trained staffers begin to build relationships with the youth. Working through emotional and spiritual struggles they help to develop a more comprehensive, long-term service plan with goals and objectives.

Outreach maintains and staffs a “Drop-In Center” which includes a clothing and hygiene product pantry, a food pantry, laundry facilities, shower facilities, and meals. The youth can come to the Drop-In Center to access services, have a safe place to hang out, and to work with staff and volunteers on the issues that will help them remove themselves from street life. Many youth come just to talk. A Bible study group provides a casual forum for kids who are asking questions about God, Christianity, and their own personal spiritual beliefs.

Youth are classified along a continuum of services.  The initial group includes the “browsers”—the kids who are not quite ready to commit to doing all that is necessary to change their current situation in a positive direction. They often just come for the basic necessities—food, clothing, a shower, a safe place to hang out. The second group makes up the “subscribers”—those who have plugged into the process and are willing to learn new skills and accept the responsibilities necessary to pursue a better future.  The third level is for the “champions”—those who have done well and are beginning to be more stable. They are in school or vocational training, possibly living in a group home or something similar.  The final stage is referred to as the “alumni”—those who are now stable, employed and nearly off the client roll.  The classifications are fluid though and many of the young people make it to a new level only to regress again to a lower one.

Kim Luppino, Director of Stewardship, welcomes Grace volunteers to a day of service at Outreach, Inc. in downtown Indianapolis.

Kim Luppino, Director of Stewardship, welcomes Grace volunteers to a day of service at Outreach, Inc. in downtown Indianapolis.

Outreach has a staff of nine besides Kim including Eric Howard, Executive Director/Founder, and Megan Hershey, MSW, Director of Client Services, as well as five case managers and two Outreach Street Workers, one of who is Grace’s own, Johnny Teater. Kim explained that all Outreach staffers are passionate about their work, feel called to the work by God, and have a “fire in their belly” that keeps them going.

All potential staff members are subjected to a very comprehensive interview process consisting of four to five interviews, each one beginning with a prayer.  Though staff salaries are relatively low, Kim explained that there are many benefits that all staffers at Outreach, Inc. are blessed with.  A core value of Outreach is that such stressful work demands that to keep its staff mentally and spiritually healthy the givers need support, meaningful relationships, and time off.  Therefore all staffers are provided with four weeks of vacation the first year, a family attitude and atmosphere among the staffers is encouraged and cultivated, and all staffers receive mandatory “spiritual reformation time” one hour every week and one full day every other month.  This is time in which the staff is required to spend time with God, possibly alone in a park reading the Bible or with their pastor seeking guidance.

All staffers at Outreach, Inc. feel called to this work when clearly their experience and education could place them in financially more rewarding positions.  They are dedicated to introducing these teens and young adults to a relationship with Jesus Christ and helping them to mature in that relationship.

Kim often referred to the outreach services as “wraparound” both in the spirit of wrapping the young people in the love of God and in the reality of wrapping them in comfort of food, clothing, and medical care. Thanks to a caring and dedicated staff and a faithful and responsive referral and partner network, Outreach serves over 300 youth each year with wraparound services and programs.

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Next Steps
    • Check out the volunteer opportunities at Outreach, Inc.! Click here to see how you can get involved.
    • Donate one or more easy-to-locate items that are needed immediately. See the list here.
    • Visit Outreach, Inc.'s website for more information
    Next Steps

About the Author: Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city. This team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation told some of the stories from the weekend.

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