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The Shocking Lack of Services of Homeless Youth

Wed, Apr 13, 2011

Jim LoBianco

Across Chicago there is a strong collaboration of groups who advocate on the issue of homelessness. However, within this collaborative, as in society in general, the voices campaigning for the needs of homeless youth are in the minority.

Unfortunately, it appears that this minority voice is not given the attention equal to the importance of its cause. As with any crisis, early intervention is its key to long-term success. When it comes to homeless youth the facts are simple: services in the city of Chicago are falling far behind the need. Because of this gross deficiency in services it is safe to assume that many of the homeless youth of today will be the homeless adults of tomorrow.

Fact: There are approximately 189 beds for homeless youth (ages 18-25) funded by the City of Chicago.

Fact: Over the course of 2010, agencies that oversaw those 189 beds turned away an approximate total of 4,775 homeless youth. To be clear, that was 4,775 instances where homeless youth who sought shelter were unable to find it.

Deficiency: Currently there are approximately 10% of the beds needed to provide safe shelter and the accompanying support programs for youth in need.

Educational Deficiencies
Fact: For the 2009/2010 education year the Chicago Public School (CPS) system reported 3,682 unaccompanied homeless youth, (an approximate 26% increase over the previous school year). The total number of students reported as homeless was 15,027, (an approximate 20% increase over the previous school year).

Fact: As part of cost saving measures CPS eliminated the position that oversaw all homeless youth services within the school system. In addition to cutting this critical position, CPS has failed to fill other
vacancies within the same unit.

Deficiency: At a time when the numbers of homeless youth enrolled in CPS are increasing, top school administrators are cutting the positions dedicated to serving these children.

The topics of shelter and education are just two of the critical areas in which homeless youth are grossly underserved. StreetWise is proud to dedicate the focus of this issue to ongoing efforts to increase funding and services for this most at-risk population. Working with social service providers, the City has made some positive progress, but, there is still much work to be done.

I would appreciate your feedback on the issues presented in this youth focused edition. Please share your thoughts with me at tipline@streetwise.org


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