Ed Shurna for The Huffington Post: How much is a homeless teenager worth?

How much is a homeless teenager worth?

How do you talk with a legislator about the impact of budget cuts? A group of homeless youth who are part of an organization known as the Hello Youth Group made a YouTube video and then went to the state capitol in Springfield to talk with legislators.

The youth told legislators that they were a good investment. “Invest in me… I’m worth it… I’m worth more than an ipod ” ($128 is the average amount a homeless youth would receive yearly from the state. $3.2 million divided by the number of homeless youth in Illinois)

If moral arguments don’t work, then use economic arguments. The youth personalized the proposed budget cuts. They told legislators that cutting programs that help youth is a bad economic decision.

It’s really sad and disgusting that one of the most vulnerable populations in the state is getting cut. But rather than complaining and moaning, the youth took action. They took their case to Springfield. Stop the cuts and invest in homeless youth now and save the taxpayer money in the future.

You can bet that without support many of these vulnerable youth will end up in prison or in DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services). The cost for incarcerating juveniles is $85,000 per year. DCFS spends over $20,000 to care for one youth for a year.

We will know by the end of May how much legislators think a homeless teenager is worth.

Ed Shurna is executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. He has worked as a community organizer in Chicago for more than 40 years.