CHIP — Young, homeless and gay: How Indy woman found her identity — and a mission

Young, homeless and gay: How Indy woman found her identity — and a mission,” Maureen Gilmer, Indianapolis Star, September 20, 2018.

A few years ago, Sara Alrajabi wouldn’thave been able to stand before several hundred people to talk about her mental health and her decision to come out as gay.

But there she was Tuesday at the Marriott Downtown to not only embrace who she is, but to feel the support of everyone in the room.

Alrajabi accepted the Diamond Service Award from the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention for her work as an engagement coordinator for Adult & Child Health, which provides mental health services and other programming. The award recognizes someone who has overcome homelessness and is giving back to the community in a meaningful way.

“I thought I was going to be on disability or dead by this time,” the 24-year-old said. After a falling out with her parents as a teen in Indianapolis, she drifted, at one time living in an abandoned house.

She found Indiana Youth Group, a drop-in center for young people ages 12-20 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ+). From there, she found her place as a peer counselor with Adult & Child.

“I had given up on myself, and if these people didn’t see the light in me, then … there wouldn’t be this light that I give,” she told the group.

A year after living in that abandoned house, she bought her first home, and she is repairing her relationship with her family.

“I am 24 years old and I have a business card and I have a job and I have a story, and I don’t have to be … fighting to love myself.”

Being young and gay raises homelessness risk

Alrajabi’s experience with homelessness is not uncommon for LGBTQ youth, who are twice as likely as their peers to be couch-surfing or living on the street, said Matthew Morton, guest speaker for the event. Morton specializes in youth homelessness in his work as a research fellow at the University of Chicago.

He challenged the group of advocates in the audience to focus on youth and young adult initiatives, so that more people like Alrajabi have hope and a path to a future.

Honors for others fighting homelessness

Others honored during CHIP’s awards program included:

Angela Hopson, executive director, SOAR Initiative (Street Outreach Animal Response), who received the Joseph W. Fahy Caring for Our Neighbors award for her work to help those living on the street with their pets. Hopson, who moved in and out of homelessness for 10 years as a teen and young adult, went on to earn business and law degrees from Indiana University.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, who received the William A. Crawford Public Service Award for adding 400 permanent housing units for the city’s homeless.

Karin Thornburg, retired community liaison coordinator for Eskenazi Health Midtown Community Mental Health, who received the D. William Moreau Jr. Homeless Advocate Award.

School on Wheels, Service Provider Champion Award, for its outreach work in shelters and schools to offer academic tutoring to children who are homeless.

Contact IndyStar reporter Maureen Gilmer at 317-444-6879 or Follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @MaureenCGilmer.

Categories: Inspiration


Post Your Thoughts

Related Posts
CHIP — “Researchers Say Indianapolis Homelessness Cost Over $73 Million In 2016”

CHIP — “Researchers Say Indianapolis Homelessness Cost Over $73 Million In 2016”

DREW DAUDELIN, "Researchers Say Indianapolis Homelessness Cost Over $73 Million In 2016," WFYI May 24, 2018…

CHIP — “Indy counts its homeless population every year. 2019’s happened during a polar vortex”

CHIP — “Indy counts its homeless population every year. 2019’s happened during a polar vortex”

“I can also tell you that some of the teams that went to the more established camps across the city did find people unsheltered that were hunkered down that night and did not go in,” Haring-Cozzi said. “So, even as frigid as it was, there were individuals found unsheltered that remained so on Wednesday night.”

CHIP — Mobilization to defend the homeless in Indianapolis

CHIP — Mobilization to defend the homeless in Indianapolis

An Indianapolis Star article cites a Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention representative, who states that the city doesn’t have enough shelter space. Most shelters are only open in the evening, and day shelters like Horizon House, close their doors hours before overnight shelters open. Moreover, many shelters restrict the basic rights of the homeless to sleep with their partners and families, subject the homeless to religious doctrines, refuse service to many disabled people and enforce lifestyle regulations.