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More challenges to building a youth shelter in Elkhart

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There are more than 200 homeless kids in Elkhart County.

That is according to the latest numbers from the Indiana Department of Education, and it does not include kids younger than six-years-old or kids who are not required to attend school.

"There's a huge problem in Elkhart," said John Shafer, with Chicago and Michiana Five for the Homeless. "We're beginning to see signs, as well as in South Bend and Mishawaka, that reminds us of Chicago."

"It's hard to tell [the extent of the problem]," said Christina McGovern with the Youth Service Bureau of St. Joseph County.

"Even though we have a young person who may say their last known address was in Elkhart County, even with the numbers we get, it can be hard to gauge the scope of the problem there," she said.

Since some kids might not identify themselves as homeless, even though they don't always have a place to stay, it's hard to know exactly how many homeless kids are in Elkhart County.

But the bigger question is how to fix it.

"There's very few resources other than for them to get clothing or food," Shafer said. "So Elkhart County is lacking. St. Joseph County has a safe house and we need to bring one in Elkhart."

But the problem is, it's not as easy as simply building a place for young homeless people to stay.

"You would definitely need to have a respected agency in place," McGovern said. "It would need to have the proper credentials, the proper background checks for staff, things like that. You need an established agency."

The other major problem is cost.

The Youth Service Bureau in St. Joseph County gets more than $275,000 from federal grants, that's just for the youth shelter. Their total budget is more than $1 million.

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