Equal Voice News: Homeless handbook provides answers for youth in Illinois

Equal Voice News: For the more than 59,000 homeless youth in Illinois, the question has likely surfaced at one point in their lives: If a police officer detains me, where can I be taken? 

In other words, what are the rights of homeless youth in Illinois?

Now, there are answers. In fact, there are many for homeless youth in the state on topics such as employment, health care, civil rights, finding housing and life without permanent shelter.

A 17-chapter guidebook – the “Homeless Youth Handbook” – produced by Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), Baker & McKenzie law firm and United Airlines was released on Wednesday in digital and print formats.

The guide also answers questions about general safety, domestic violence, seeking identification and issues that homeless LGBTQ youth might face.

“This is a valuable guide for homeless youth, including unaccompanied youth living without the support of a parent or guardian, as well as those who work with them,” Patricia Nix-Hodes, director of the Law Project at CCH, said in a statement.

In Chicago alone, there are more than 21,400 homeless in the public schools, she said.

The guidebook is not intended as legal advice. Instead, the authors say, it is meant to provide general information and answers.

The book marks the third of its kind in the United States. Already, there is a handbook for homeless youth in Minnesota and Washington state.

“The guide offers practical answers to the varied and complex legal issues faced by homeless youth,” Adrienne Pitts, a Baker & McKenzie partner, said in a statement.

A total of more than 50 attorneys from the law firm, United Airlines and CCH contributed to writing the handbook. Chicago-based United Airlines said it was important to contribute to the project and help people in the state.

“It was a privilege for United’s legal team to play a role in developing such a valuable resource for our local youth” Steve Fus, assistant general counsel for United Airlines, said.

In addition to answering questions homeless youth might have, the handbook offers tools to deal with or address issues that might cause a person to lose shelter. Those issues include: Domestic violence, mental health issues, substance abuse and sexual exploitation.

The handbook, which is available online, can be requested in print by sending an email to: youthhandbook@chicagohomeless.org.

So exactly where can a police officer take a homeless youth in Illinois if stopped?

The guidebook says the officer can accompany the young person to that youth’s home to be reunited with his or her parents. The officer also can take the young person to a parent’s place of employment.

Another option: The officer can take the young person to a licensed youth shelter, especially if there is reason to believe that abuse or neglect would occur at home.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit organization, works on public policies that seek to end homelessness. 

– Equal Voice News Editor Brad Wong