Being underage can be a major obstacle when homeless teens seek an escape.
By Raquel Martin
According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), every year around 25,000 young people find themselves homeless in the state. Without a safe place to go, many lawmakers believe their lives are put in danger.
It’s why they proposed a new bill allowing minors, from 16 – 18, to take advantage of transitional shelters without their parents’ permission.
Right now, minors must first be emancipated in order to use a shelter. Without a place to go, many are sleeping in places such as cars or other public spaces.
According to the CCH, about a third of homeless young people say they’ve left home because of physical abuse. Lawmakers who support the bill say they these shelters are safe alternative.
“You want a teenager, if they’re seeking help, to be able to access those services and programs that a shelter provides. I mean, you don’t want to jeopardize anybody’s safety by putting them back on the streets if they don’t have the proper permission. You want them to be safe,” says Steve Staldeman (D- Rockford).
The bill is facing some opposition. It passed the House 71 – 40 and now is awaiting a vote in the Senate. Some lawmakers are concerned the bill would encourage more minors to leave home.
There are dozens of transitional shelters for teens around the state. Each offers counseling services so children can ultimately reunite with their parents.
Those who support the bill say these shelters are not meant to be permanent solutions but a way to keep those vulnerable protected.
This fall, 100 homeless families with school-age children will gain permanent housing and support services, thanks to a partnership between the city and the nonprofit Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
For the first time, the organization’s count includes the so-called “doubled-up” population – people who stay with friends and relatives in hard times. Though many self-identify as homeless, the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development does not recognize them as such, according to Julie Dworkin, the director of policy at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
I spent a heartbreaking couple of hours last week sitting around a table with six high school students who would tell you without hesitation that they are homeless even though they go to bed at night with a roof over their heads.
Each of these young people has been living “doubled up,” staying with relatives or friends after losing their own housing because of financial hardships.
It’s a hard way to live, they wanted me to know, in some ways more difficult than staying in a homeless shelter, which several of them also have done.
Editor’s Note: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless advocated for this measure with Mr. Orr’s office, and a similar bill to assist homeless people statewide, House Bill 3060.
Cook County Clerk David Orr on Wednesday commended the Cook County Board of Commissioners for their passage of legislation that removes the fees for birth certificates from his office for homeless residents, domestic violence victims living in shelters and recently released inmates.
Orr worked with legislation sponsors Commissioners Larry Suffredin, John P. Daley, and Robert Steele on the amendment to the ordinance detailing Clerk’s Vital Records fees. The County Board approved the measure at their Wednesday meeting.
The amendment to the Vital Records fees ordinance states that homeless Cook County residents or not-for-profit organizations representing them, individuals who have been released from the state Department of Corrections or the Cook County Department of Corrections in the past 90 days and individuals residing in domestic violence shelters, “may receive a copy of their birth record at no cost.”
Chicago’s first rapid response center designed to help homeless families get on the path to permanent housing will be built on the West Side through a collaboration between city officials and the Salvation Army.
“We’re just very thankful for the opportunity the city is providing us,” said Lt. Col. Charles Smith, metropolitan divisional commander for the Salvation Army. “We look forward to this service as the years go by.”
The Shield of Hope, 910 N. Christiana Ave., will have a 20-room unit that can house up to 75 beds and a multipurpose room that can house cots if necessary. Families can stay at the shelter from one to 10 days while being assessed and then will be referred to one of the 50 family shelters in the city before hopefully moving to permanent housing, Smith said.
Construction is scheduled to begin in April or May 2017, and the facility is scheduled to open its doors in the latter part of spring 2018, he added.
CCH NOTE: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless works in a reentry coalition advocating passage of Rep. Wheeler’s bill, House Bill 3142.
Our Reentry Project is part of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI). The coalition was organized in 2015 by CCH, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Community Renewal Society, and Heartland Alliance. RROCI advocates for policies that remove barriers for ex-offenders in community reentry.
By Dusty Rhodes
In a way, it’s just one little box on a lengthy college application form. But for many would-be students, that box is more of a stop sign if the instructions say “check here if you have a criminal record.” State Rep. Barbara Wheeler, a Republican from Crystal Lake, wants to change that.
She sat down with Education Desk reporter Dusty Rhodes to explain why.
Rep. Wheeler: A couple of years ago, a constituent came to me after he had been in some trouble during his high school years, and he needed some help with expungement as well as some advice in regard to going on with his life after high school graduation.
How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?
“Taishi Neuman is inspired to help families coping with poverty. First homeless at age 15, she experienced homelessness again when multiple sclerosis left her unable to work as a nursing home assistant.
She thought she was too reserved to speak up, until Taishi met a community organizer from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH). He was running an outreach session, telling parents at her transitional housing program how they could speak up about school issues.
Below the busy Lake Shore Drive bridge over Wilson Avenue, snow and ice secures Mark Saulys’ tent to the cement. He has been homeless for more than a year but will trade his nylon walls for a sturdier home in a couple of weeks because of a city housing initiative, he said.
“I’m worried for the people here, and I can see that they are worried about being tossed out,” Saulys said about his neighbors remaining in Uptown’s Tent City.
Dozens of homeless people find refuge under the viaduct, which has often put them at odds with Chicago politicians. But construction slated to begin on the Lake Shore Drive bridges intersecting with Wilson Avenue and Lawrence Avenue this spring means time is dwindling for a place many call home, said Diane O’Connell, a staff attorney with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
The problems that President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget would cause for Chicago extend far beyond the Meals on Wheels program that so far has received most of the attention.
As I explained in Sunday’s column, the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program that Trump would eliminate provides $1.8 million — or 20 percent — of the $8.6 million the city spends on its version of Meals on Wheels.
That’s not fake news. That’s a real cut that could severely impact a vital service that brings nutritious meals to 8,000 needy seniors a year.
But it’s also just a fraction of the city’s total expected $81 million CDBG allotment for 2017. Take away that money entirely, as Trump proposes, and you poke a painful hole in numerous other city social service efforts.
For the past three months, case workers from the nonprofit organization A Save Haven Foundation have been driving through the city offering panhandlers and homeless individuals a chance to work. The five-hour shifts consist of manual labor, such as shoveling snow or picking up trash, for a cash payment of about $55.