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No Youth Alone

HELLO youth group video (2012)

Unaccompanied youth, living without a family or guardian, face day-to-day challenges that often cloud their adult lives. They must secure food and shelter, find a job or return to school. Often, they are unclear where to seek help and who they can trust.

CCH has advocated for the needs of unaccompanied youth since it organized a Youth Committee in 1983. Comprised of 41 youth providers – 26 in Chicago, seven from the suburbs and eight in downstate Illinois – the Youth Committee helps our No Youth Alone campaign advocate for policies and programs serving unaccompanied youth.

Thousands of youth across Illinois cope with homelessness. In 2005, CCH was involved in a comprehensive state-run study that found almost 25,000 Illinois youth experience homelessness each year, about 9,000 of them in the Chicago area. About one-third blamed family conflict. Other common reasons included physical or sexual abuse by a parent or family member. Three out of five youth said they had been the victims of violence in the prior 12 months. Many said they were throw-aways, not runaways.

HELLO youth group meets with then-Mayor Daley

In 2012, the youth campaign persuaded legislators to restore some of the 33% ($1.6 million) in yearly funding cuts that had been imposed on homeless youth programs over four years – the state allocated $4.1 million in FY13, or $900,000 (28%) more. An additional $500,000 was restored in FY14. And in the 2014 legislative session, the FY15 state budget allocated a much-needed $1 million increase, to $5.6 million.

In 2014, CCH drafted and advocated for House Bill 4501, which would allow unaccompanied minors to consent to their own health care for non-emergency illnesses and injuries. It unanimously passed both the Illinois House and Senate by May, and now awaits the governor’s signature. Bringing Illinois in line with 16 other states, the amendment will allow minors, ages 14 to 18, to consent to their own care, when previously they had to be turned away because they lacked a parent/guardian to sign a consent form.

Youth attorney Beth Cunningham runs a mobile legal aid clinic that offers outreach at school and street programs. She and Policy Specialist Jennifer Cushman lead a weekly group for street youth that’s met since 2005 in the Lakeview neighborhood (6 p.m. Tuesdays at the Broadway Youth Center, 615 W. Wellington). Advocacy by the HELLO group includes a 2010 meeting with then-Mayor Richard Daley: Their discussions led to creation of Chicago’s homeless youth task force, and pilot funding for the city’s first seasonal overnight youth shelter, The Crib.

No Youth Alone receives project-funded support from the Polk Bros. Foundation. The Youth Futures clinic is supported by the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund and Advancing Justice, an initiative of The Chicago Bar Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust.