Former Foster Youth, Lt. Governor Team Up On Rural Homelessness

Apr 19, 2023 | News, Policy & Practice

When the lieutenant governor made an appearance at a Foster Success event, Sierra knew it was her chance.

Her chance to tell the second most powerful person in state government about the time she was homeless for 18 months, living on the street, eating garbage, with no one and nowhere to turn to. About her friends who have had similar experiences. About the lack of resources in her rural Indiana community.

Bicknell is more than an hour drive to even small cities such as Evansville and Terre Haute. Homeless shelters are nonexistent and resources are scarce, she said.

Sierra, now 27, transitioned out of the state’s foster care system and leaned on Foster Success for nearly a decade. We support teens and young adults ages 14-26 throughout the state.

Though she can no longer participate in Foster Success’s programs, she continues to advocate for young people with foster care experience. She was one of about a dozen young people who participated in our inaugural Day at the Statehouse event Feb. 2.

Former Foster Youth, Lt. Governor Team Up On Rural Homelessness 1

Sierra talks with Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch during Day at the Statehouse Feb. 2.

It was there that she shared her story with Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch.

“It was tough not having a place to stay, not having a place to shower, not having a place to feel safe,” Sierra said. “When the vehicle I was staying in got towed, everything that I owned was towed with it – that was my home. There were nights I was riding my bike at 3 o’clock in the morning because I didn’t have anywhere to go. I didn’t have family to turn to.”

Within hours, Crouch was on the phone with Knox County officials, and by the end of the day, Sierra was connected to a Knox County commissioner.

“(Crouch) said she would contact the Knox County Commissioners and see where it went from there. I was still at the Statehouse when a commissioner called me so I thought that was pretty cool and fast,” Sierra said.

Since then, she has joined the Knox County Homeless Task Force.

“It’s really interesting to see how (the county) measures homelessness. I personally know a lot of 18-24 year olds who are homeless in our community, but the county’s homeless count is zero,” Sierra said. “I thought that was really interesting because I know that’s not accurate. I can help in that way because I have that lived experience. A lot of people aren’t going to admit that they’re homeless, but if you’re sleeping on someone’s couch, you are.”

Now that she and her family are housed and stable, she has made it a point to make sure nobody else goes through what she did. She is also looking for ways to support similar work in Daviess County, where her church and church community are located.

“I’ve been there. I know the feeling of being scared, the fear of not having somewhere to call home. I don’t want anyone to have to feel like that,” Sierra said. “I see organizations all the time talking about helping people overseas. The biggest flaw in that kind of system is we have plenty of people here who need help.”

Even when here is in the middle of nowhere.

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