Cultural Vision Awards 2016: Social Justice

Making Indianapolis a more just place to live.

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Cultural Vision Awards 2016: Social Justice


There is no question homelessness is an issue in our community. In 2015, The Indiana Policy Research Institute counted 136 homeless families in Marion County — those families included 285 children (under age 18). On the day of the count two of those families did not have shelter for the night. (The results of the 2016 Point-in-time Count will be released in July.)

Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis is an organization dedicated to providing shelter and resources for homeless families until the entire family is ready to move to permanent housing. What makes Family Promise unique is the village approach to its services.

RELATED: See all our CVA winners 

Formerly known as the Indianapolis Interfaith Hospitality Network, Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis at its core is a network of faith communities throughout the city. For one week at a time homeless families find shelter in different congregations. The network includes many faiths from Christian churches to Jewish synagogues and more. The congregations provide food for the week and fellowship during the evenings. During the day, children go to school and guardians go to work or the Family Promise day center for job training or counseling, case interviews and other necessary resources that will lead them to permanent housing and independence.

The promise of Family Promise is its commitment to keeping families together. Some shelters may only take men and others only take women and children.

Sometimes the women and children shelters won't accept boys over 13 years of age, requiring them to seek independent shelter at men's facility. The shelter program through Family Promise keeps families together regardless of age and configuration of that family.

For over 20 years, Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis has been helping families stay together as they work their way out of homelessness while building a greater community that transcends socioeconomic and faith boundaries.

Co-founders DeShong Perry Smitherman and Ericka Gibson began A Girl's Gift with a vision of empowering young girls to realize their true potential. During a week-long camp in a college setting, middle school-age girls discover how to dream big through lessons in business. The girls find self-esteem and self-worth in their journey toward becoming young entrepreneurs. "We want girls to look into the mirror of success and see themselves in the picture," says Smitherman. Since A Girl's Gift began in 2009, over 200 girls have completed the business plan program and have the tools they need to become owners of their own businesses and developers of their own products.

Two organizations lead the way in welcoming and settling refugees from any country in Indiana. Exodus Refugee Immigration and the Refugee and Immigrant Services at Catholic Charities Indianapolis have settled hundreds of refugees while helping them acclimate to life in the Hoosier state. Over the past several months our state government has challenged both organizations on their mission and service specific to Syrian refugees. And both have been steadfast in their resolve to make sure these families and all others that they serve are able to find stability and peace in a new and foreign place.

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Society & Individual