Outreach Inc. helps homeless teens

Dressed in blue jeans and a tan tank top, Patty Robbins looks like an average 18-year-old enjoying cake and chatting with friends. However, beneath her happy smile is a girl whose life has been filled with challenges and obstacles that most high school kids never have to face. Many students struggle to complete homework assignments on time and worry about wearing the right clothes. For Robbins, the focus was on where she would be staying each night and how to get to school each morning.  Patty Robbins (right) is one of seven homeless high school graduates honored recently.Robbins was one of seven high school graduates being honored by Outreach Inc. at a picnic in Broad Ripple Park on Saturday. She was commended for overcoming the odds of unfortunate circumstances. Robbins’ parents were never married and she was raised mostly by her grandmother. After problems arose with her mother, she moved in with her grandfather during her junior year of high school. In 2003, her grandfather was convicted of murder and sent to prison. From then on, Robbins moved from house to house staying with various relatives and friends for short periods of time.

“My biggest challenge has been trying to find out what I should be doing with my life,” she said. “I haven’t really been raised right. I don’t really know who to trust. Life’s been complicated and stressful.”

Fortunately, Outreach Inc., a Christian organization focused on helping homeless and runaway youth, found Robbins and helped her get her life on track. They entered her into their Goal Program, which offers aid to youth not living with a parent or legal guardian. They encouraged Robbins to stay in school. “I was thinking about dropping out,” she said. “I just thought I couldn’t do it. But I did.” Robbins’ determination helped her make her way through school with little support from her parents.

When her father heard that she had been receiving help from the Goal Program and that she would be graduating, he promised her that he would come to the ceremony. Yet, when the big day arrived, he was not in attendance. “He’s not been a real dad to me,” Robbins said. “He’s always lied to me.” However, Robbins found the support she needed through Outreach and now plans to attend college in the fall.

Outreach’s project coordinator, Megan Fausset, played a key role in Robbins’ success. Fausset makes a point to always be available to all of the students in the program. She is there to work with their school’s social workers on their behalf, to help provide the youth with food and clothing, or just to listen when they need to talk. “Outreach has helped me out a lot,” Robbins said. “Megan has been there for me throughout everything. She even drove us to prom this year.”

The picnic ceremony was a chance for the graduates in the Goal Program to come together and celebrate their determination. The graduates seemed happy and proud as they socialized and ate lunch together. As the conversations subsided, founder and executive director of Outreach, Eric Howard, began the ceremony. He read a series of congratulatory letters from influential supporters, including Mayor Bart Peterson and Sen. Richard Lugar, to an emotional audience. Howard and Fausset then introduced the graduates, discussed their future plans and presented them with gift bags, hand shakes and hugs. Praising the students, Howard said, “You reached a goal and you did not stop. When you had every reason to stop, you persevered.”

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