No one should have to experience housing insecurity issues when they are trying to gain an education and improve their life. And Shaina Lawrence is determined to do something about it.
“The fact that we even have one student at IUPUI that faces this issue is not acceptable,” she said. “Hearing about students who have to sleep in their car, a storage unit or on the streets is gut-wrenching.”
She’s taken her passion for finding solutions and obtaining resources to solve this problem and applied it directly within an Indianapolis initiative – the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). Lawrence, assistant director for the Office of Student Advocacy and Support, represents IUPUI and Indianapolis higher education institutions on the committee.
The purpose of YHDP is to support communities in the development and implementation of a coordinated community approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness. The planning process began in October 2019, and it hopes to conclude with programs being funded and implemented in fall 2022. It is facilitated by the City of Indianapolis and the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention.
While being a part of YHDP is new for Lawrence, serving under-resourced students is not. She was a part of the establishment of the Office of Student Advocacy and Support at IUPUI in 2016, and the first thing the office did was determine the gaps that existed between what students needed and what they were offering as an office and a campus.
“One of our largest gaps was, and still is, assisting students who are experiencing housing insecurity,” Lawrence said. “We currently have no housing resources available as a campus.”
Being involved in YHDP is how Lawrence can ensure IUPUI is visible and a part of the larger conversation.
“We all will have to work together as a campus and larger community to support our students,” she said.
Indianapolis is dedicated to activating a coordinated response system that includes prevention, more support systems, and more housing options so that youth and young adult homelessness is a rare and brief experience. Working together with YHDP will allow for the development of housing options and more resources in the community.
It is the goal and hope of this program that IUPUI students will have access to temporary housing options until they can figure out a longer-term and stable place to live. And there will be connections in the community around prevention that can help mitigate a looming housing insecurity issue.
“Personally, my interest lies in creating housing options that are accessible by our students and further developing community connections and partnerships to assist students. Being involved in YHDP allows me to do that,” Lawrence said.