Homeless youth meet with Governor Rauner over funding crisis

Governor says he will consider homeless and housing funding bill.

February 19 – Twenty service providers and homeless youth met with Gov. Bruce Rauner today regarding a bill for immediate funding for the vital services that keep youth off the street.

Caprice Williams speaking to members of the press following the meeting with Gov. Rauner.
Caprice Williams speaks to members of the press following the meeting with Gov. Rauner.

Caprice Williams, a 22-year old mother of a 6-month-old girl said, “I was sleeping in my car before I got help from a homeless youth program and that is where my baby and I will end up again if the programs close because they are not getting paid.”

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless asked to meet with the governor so he could hear first-hand how the lack of a state budget impacts homeless youth. The state of Illinois funds housing and services for homeless youth, ages 14 to 24, to help youth stabilize, finish school, get employment, and become independent. These youth providers are at serious risk of closing or making large-scale cuts to services after eight months without payment. 

Flora Koppel speaking to the press.
Flora Koppel, executive director of Unity Parenting and Counseling, speaks to the press. 

“We have run out of money to pay rent on the apartments for 28 young moms and their 32 children,” said Flora Koppel, executive director of Unity Parenting and Counseling. “If these young people end up on the streets, the state will be paying for them anyway through the child welfare system or the prisons.”

The governor initially declined a meeting with the group, but after 200 phone calls and 34 people visited the governor’s office and refusing to leave, he agreed to meet.

Youth and providers asked the governor to support House Bill 4955 and Senate Bill 2603, which would provide immediate funding for homeless youth services and other critical homeless services. The governor and his policy director made it clear that they had supported similar creative funding proposals in the past. They said they would speak with the governor’s Office of Management and Budget and let the group know on Monday, Feb. 22 whether they would support the bills.

“Right now with House Bill 4955, the governor has the chance to provide for homeless youth across our state, young people who are suffering in the midst of this unnecessary budget stalemate,” said State Rep. Chris Welch (D-Westchester), lead sponsor on the bill. “We are hopeful he will make the right decision and support these programs.”

Director of Policy Julie Dworkin speaking to the press.
CCH Director of Policy Julie Dworkin speaks to the press. (Photos by Jim Field)

“We hope that after hearing the stories of how these programs positively changed young lives that the governor will choose to act now and support our bills to fund these programs immediately,” said Julie Dworkin, policy director for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “Just yesterday he created a cabinet-level position on children and youth. If he is serious about supporting the needs of young people, he can start right now by funding these programs.”

For more information, contact Director of Policy Julie Dworkin.