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No Youth Alone

Our homeless youth group produced this video.

Unaccompanied youth, living without a family or guardian, face day-to-day challenges that can 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 40 youth providers – 27 in Chicago, six from the suburbs and seven 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 2014, CCH drafted and advocated for House Bill 4501, which allows unaccompanied minors to consent to their own medical care for non-emergency illnesses and injuries. It took effect in October 2014. Bringing Illinois in line with 17 other states, the amendment allows minors, ages 14 to 18, to consent to their own care, when previously they were turned away even from school-based clinics if they lacked a parent/guardian to sign a consent form.

No Youth Alone also mobilizes youth and youth providers to advocate for state and city resources. 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. The city of Chicago reallocated $2 million a year to increased shelter and drop-in programs, beginning with FY13.

Youth attorney Beth Malik runs a mobile legal aid clinic that offers outreach at school and street programs. She is assisted by youth health attorney Graham Bowman and staff attorney Diane O’Connell.

Since 2005, CCH youth staff have co-led an advocacy group mobilizing street youth. Their advocacy includes a 2010 meeting with then-Mayor Richard Daley, which resulted in Chicago starting its homeless youth task force and pilot funding for the Crib, the city’s first overnight youth shelter. Weekly youth group meetings are now co-led with Unity Parenting and Counseling, held Monday evenings at Ujima shelter on the South Side.

No Youth Alone is grateful for long-time support given by the Polk Bros. Foundation.

The Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic is supported by the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, The Chicago Bar Foundation, EverThrive Illinois, Field Foundation of Illinois, Michael Reese Health Trust, Student Alliance for Homeless Youth, and the VNA Foundation.