Advocates push for a youth homeless shelter in Elkhart


The federal government believes more than 195,000 teens and young adults experienced at least one night of homelessness in 2014.

Many of them are in crisis and possibly running away from home and desperately looking for a place to turn to.

"We believe that there could be as many 200 roaming the streets of Elkhart County at large throughout the course of a year," said John Shafer, the director of Chicago and Michiana Five for the Homeless.

And here in Elkhart, they don't have a safe place to go.

"There's one Elkhart shelter for men or women," Shafer said. "That's Faith Mission, but you have to be 18 and above to stay there."

That's actually common for homeless shelters in the area. But one thing that Elkhart lacks are places called safe stations, places where teens and other at risk people can go to try and connect with the help they need.

"Part of that program is that it is an immediate connection," said Christina McGovern, the director of community connections at the Youth Service Bureau of St. Joseph County.

"It's something that they can connect with somebody and say 'Okay, I need help,'" she said.

Shafer and his organization have been pushing for the need for a shelter for a while. Even though there are no specific plans for a youth shelter right now - they're hoping to get plans moving this summer, and they're hoping others in Elkhart will start to respond.

"We need the community to be aware and awareness creates the demand," Shafer said.

Shafer has a meeting scheduled for July 15th at the Salvation Army in Elkhart to get community input on how to get a youth shelter up and running.

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