Study: State's Homeless Youth Need Better Resources

December 20, 2007

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The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is releasing a report today that says homeless youth in Illinois are underserved. The advocacy group says the state has about 25,000 homeless young people.

When 20-year-old Lorenzo Rowell's grandmother got put in a nursing home last year, he found himself homeless.

ROWELL: I didn't want to go to like a shelter with a lot of older people…like old dudes and drug addicts.

After a lot of phone calls, he eventually found a youth shelter. Rowell says those centers are better equipped to help young people find jobs and programs.

But Rowell waited for about a month before the shelter had enough space to let him in.

And a new report says his experience is not uncommon.

The report recommends doubling the number of state beds and providing intensive employment services. It says an additional $7 million annually is needed to help homeless youth who aren't in the care of a parent or guardian.

Anne Holcomb works at The Night Ministry. She says the youth shelter sometimes turns away two youth a day.

HOLCOMB: There're over 10,000 homeless youth in Chicago a year. And the number of beds in the city is not near enough to meet that need.

Lorenzo Rowell stayed only briefly at the homeless shelter that took him in. But he continues to works closely with a youth group there. Rowell got his GED and is now enrolled at Chicago State University.

And he lives in a dorm.

I'm Natalie Moore, Chicago Public Radio.