By Christen A. Johnson
Johnny Rivers was doing everything right.
For the first 18 years of his life, the Englewood native managed to overcome the disenfranchisement plaguing his neighborhood: He graduated from Jones College Prep, becoming the first in his family to finish high school; started college at a historically black university in Memphis; and found a passion producing music. “I was on a high horse,” he proudly recalled.
No one could have predicted he’d be homeless by age 19…
Link to the complete feature story.
…Niya Kelly, state legislative director for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), says doubled-up living for young people tends to look like Rivers’ experience: “couch surfing,” “moving from place to place” — particularly at night — and not being guaranteed the same place to stay.
In 2016, there were more than 11,000 unaccompanied homeless youths ages 14 to 24 in Chicago, and 85 percent of them were living doubled-up, according to the most recent data from a CCH estimate…
…The fear of the unknown, of not knowing where they can go next, is a common feeling for homeless youths who are bouncing around or living doubled-up. Kelly says they often try to make themselves “as small as possible, or not eat as much food, or be as hospitable as possible to keep the peace” to be able to stay somewhere.
There’s a misconception, too, Kelly said, that having a roof over your head — however momentary it may be — is better than living on the street.
“You don’t know what a person has to do in order stay in a house that night,” she said, “so it’s not always better than living on the street. Some youths have to turn over their disability check or SNAP benefits (to the homeowner). Some girls get trafficked. Just because you’re going somewhere at night doesn’t mean you’re safe.”…