Using the StreetLight Chicago phone app, La Casa Norte pilots “Book A Bed” at its South Side youth shelter

Homeless youth can now reserve a shelter bed using a new “Book a Bed” feature on StreetLight Chicago, a free mobile app for homeless youth co-developed by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Through “Book a Bed,” La Casa Norte makes available four beds at its Back of the Yards shelter, 1736 W. 47th Street. Launched Feb. 6, the pilot allows youth who work evening hours or attend night classes to use StreetLight Chicago to reserve a bed when the 30-bed shelter opens at 9 p.m., said Casa Corazon Program Coordinator Shanavia Stevens.

“Many homeless youth work evening shifts and are not able to be present at the shelter when overnight beds are distributed. Book a Bed will give them the chance to reserve a bed for the night remotely, so they can focus on their job and not where they’re going to sleep that night,” said CCH youth health attorney Graham Bowman.

StreetLight Chicago is a joint project of Youth Futures, CCH’s mobile legal aid clinic for homeless youth, and The Young Invincibles, a project supported by the VNA Foundation.

Launched in mid-November, the free app is designed for use by unaccompanied, homeless youth and the service providers that support this vulnerable population, said Young Invincibles Midwest Director Erin Steva. It gives timely information on the resources available to help youth, through age 24, who are homeless and living on their own.

App listings include health care services, overnight shelters, drop-in centers, and legal aid programs that serve Chicago youth. These include the new drop-in center opened in mid-February by Covenant House Illinois. The app also sends occasional alerts, or push notifications, for weather emergencies, program closings, and other issues vital to youth on the street.

Many homeless youth use or share smartphones, relying on phones to connect them with services, jobs, or school, and their personal support network. Youth apps are in use in several U.S. cities, including the Twin Cities, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles.

Chicago is home to thousands of homeless youth, including 2,396 unaccompanied students who were living on their own and enrolled in Chicago Public Schools last year.

Service providers that want to offer updates for the app can email Content Manager Bridget Newsham at streetlightchicago@gmail.com