What started as a class project in middle school has turned into a youth movement for the homeless.
Dana Parker and Parker Hershberger were students at Orchard School last year when they were given the topic of homelessness for a project in their Global Problem Solving class.
The assignment included research and a group presentation. While the entire group participated in the research, Dana and Parker dove deep and eventually developed advocacy roots for the issue. They worked one-on-one with the city’s homeless in shelters and homeless camps. They developed mentor relationships with civic leaders and homeless advocates. They even came up with an idea for a type of “homeless hotel,” a place where the homeless could check in for the night with no obligations.
When the school year was over, Dana and Parker continued their advocacy for the homeless. They learned of the Homeless Bill of Rights authored by City-County Councillor Leroy Robinson and his efforts to protect the personal property of the homeless on the streets.
“When homeless people are evicted from their camp or spot or whatever, their stuff just gets thrown away,” says Dana. “That bill would change that.”
The proposal would prohibit the city from displacing a homeless person or from breaking up a homeless camp without a transitional housing plan in place. It would also protect personal property, and give the homeless other citizen rights that are afforded to those with an address.
Dana and Parker hope to inspire other youth their age to stand up for the homeless in Indianapolis and bring attention to Robinson’s efforts as well as others who are working on behalf of the city’s homeless population.
“We want people to realize what is happening right outside their doors,” says Dana. “We end to focus on people and issues in other parts of the country or the world when this is a big problem right in our back yard.”
The city’s youth are invited to gather on Monument Circle at 6pm tonight (Friday) to show their support and raise awareness. The rally will last as long as the participants do, or until the 1 a.m. curfew for minors.
“What we want is public support for the homeless and for the people who are trying to help them,” says Dana. “Cold temperatures are coming. One man froze to death sleeping in a tent last year. We just can’t let that happen.”