No Youth Alone
Many people struggle to imagine what it would be like to lose a home, much less what it would be like to be a teenager in the world alone. 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.
Thousands of youth across Illinois know what homelessness is like. In 2005, CCH was part of a comprehensive state-run study that found almost 25,000 Illinois youth experience homelessness each year. About one-third blamed family conflict. Other common reasons included physical or sexual abuse by a parent or family member. Three in five youth said they had been the victims of violence in the prior 12 months. Many said they were throw-aways, not runaways.
In 2007, CCH ran a study showing that housing and support services succeed in helping overcome youth homelessness. It found that 87% who exited homeless youth programs moved into safe, stable housing. Yet due to an insufficient supply of shelter beds, programs were forced to turn away 52% of those who sought help, or 3,088 youth. In 2012, youth shelters statewide maintain about 400 beds.
CCH has advocated for the needs of unaccompanied youth since it organized a Youth Committee in 1983. Comprised of 30 youth providers in Chicago, the suburbs and downstate Illinois, they help our No Youth Alone campaign advocate for policies and programs serving unaccompanied youth.
In 2012, the youth campaign persuaded legislators to restore some of the 33% ($1.6 million) in yearly funding cuts imposed over 4 years: In FY 2013, the state allocated $4.1 million, or $900,000 (28%) more than FY 2012.
Youth attorney Beth Cunningham also runs a mobile legal aid clinic. She also co-facilitates a weekly group for street youth that’s met for seven years at the Broadway Youth Center. 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 a seasonal overnight youth shelter called The Crib.
The No Youth Alone campaign receives project-funded support from the Polk Bros. Foundation, including a 2-year grant awarded in 2012. The Youth Futures clinic is supported by the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, Altria Companies Employee Group, and Advancing Justice, an initiative of The Chicago Bar Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust.