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.