CCH, Youth Committee protest over budget threat to homeless youth services

By Niya Kelly, Policy Specialist

In an action organized by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and its Youth Committee, 34 of us headed to Gov. Rauner’s Chicago office Monday to secure a meeting with him or a top aide in his administration.

We want the governor to know that vital service programs for homeless youth are struggling to remain open during the extended budget crisis. As the impasse drags on, homeless youth and service providers are struggling to survive.

At Gov. Rauner's Chicago office
At Gov. Rauner’s Chicago office

Youth and providers from across Illinois placed more than 170 calls to Rauner’s office a week earlier, asking for a meeting. We made our presence known through the phone blitz, but the governor’s office did not respond.

So CCH and the Youth Committee headed to the governor’s office at the Thompson Center. 

“Rauner, Rauner we must meet, or homeless youth are on the street,” we chanted. Youth also shared stories of survival. They told the governor’s staff how providers helped them secure stable housing, now threatened by Illinois’s failure to pay human service agencies since mid-2015.

“My 6-month-old daughter and I will be on the street, going from house to house, if the budget isn’t passed soon,” said Caprice Williams, 22.

Persistence and dedication paid off. Youth and providers secured an upcoming meeting with the governor’s chief of staff, Mike Zolnierowicz. We hope this meeting will lead to an opportunity to sit down with Gov. Rauner to talk about how the budget crisis is affecting homeless youth.

CCH organized the action, working with 40 providers on our statewide Youth Committee. Participating providers include Heartland Alliance’s Neon Street Programs, La Casa Norte, Teen Living Programs, Thresholds and Unity Parenting and Counseling.

Demanding a meeting in Gov. Rauner's office
Waiting to meet, in Gov. Rauner’s Chicago office – Photos by Christy Savellano