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Founder of teen transitional housing program receives Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good

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Posted at 6:45 PM, Mar 23, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — Jenna Shaffer's idea became her life's work.

Her selfless work has earned her a Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good, which recognizes unsung heroes doing selfless work in our communities.

Shaffer is the founder and CEO of 91 Place, which launched in 2019.

The transitional housing program provided a safe space to land for children and young adults, who don't have their own place to call home. It serves young people between the ages of 17 and 22 who are homeless.

Previously, Shaffer was a case worker with an organization called Outreach, working with homeless high school students.

She surveyed the students she helped, asking what they needed.

"The consistent thing I heard was a family," Shaffer said. "I just found this consistent problem that we didn't have enough transitional housing in Indianapolis for them and it wasn't specific to what the youth needs were."

Shaffer had a dream and just enough cash and support to create "91 Place."

Her vision and 91 Place saved Eba'Neesha Bowles.

Circumstances and tough choices left Bowles without a place to call her own, when she was finishing high school.

Shaffer worked as Bowles' caseworker.

"She visited me at school at least once a week," Bowles said, "And anything that I needed, we would handle that. That's how i found out about 91 Place. She gave me the opportunity to come live there, when I didn't know what I was going to do."

Karynn Adamowicz nominated Shaffer for the Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good.

"These kids are an extension of her family," Adamowicz said. "She pours her heart and soul into what she's doing at 91 Place. She's not doing it for a face on a billboard or anything. She's doing this to serve and to empower these other human beings, to dignify these youth who have, many times, just come from such tragedy."

Adamowicz believes in the mission of the program and has been working for the 91 Place program, focusing on fundraising.

Hard work, dedication, fundraising, advocacy and grant writing all helped to grow "91 Place", which not only is expanding to include three group homes, but also offers assistance to help young adults return to school, to find jobs, and to obtain their own housing.

Additionally, 91 Place provides mental health resources and therapy.

Shaffer says she loves what she does.

"I love cultivating family," Shaffer said. "I just love knowing that we run a home, but it's a family. To me, it's so much more than a nonprofit or a passion project."

Shaffer says she and her husband and young daughter spend all their holidays at the 91 Place homes.

Last year, "91 Place" received a $3 million grant from the City of Indianapolis, as part of the city's violence reduction program.

As it expands, Shafferneeds help.

She's looking to hire house mentors, case managers, and therapists.

In fact, Eba'neesha Bowles says, one day, she wants to return to "91 Place" as a house mentor herself.

For now, thanks to the help she received from Shaffer and her program, Bowles is living on her own and working as a mentor at the Boys & Girls Club.