* Illinois Issues…
The state budget impasse could put more young people out on the streets this winter.
Corey Stewart became homeless when he was 18, after his mother died and he found himself struggling to pay rent for the family’s apartment on Chicago’s South Side. “I worked for a temp agency,” he says. “I had my steel-toe boots and I was working, but I just couldn’t swing it — that was too much money. I wasn’t going to school because too much was going on.” And his father, who had never been in his life, was nowhere to be found.
Like many Illinois teens who find themselves without a place to sleep, Stewart began staying at other people’s homes. “I was … trying to pay rent on other people’s cribs, and that didn’t work out,” he says. Other times, he slept on the streets.
“If I weren’t mentally stable, … I probably would have lost it,” he recalls. “I probably would be doing some time in jail or something like that. … It’s harsh out there. You’ve got to worry about bullets. The police. You know what I’m saying? The weather. There’s a lot of stuff you’ve got to worry about. … It ain’t no walk in the park.”
The fallout from the state’s current budget crisis could leave more young people like Stewart on the streets this winter.
Stewart, who is now 22, was staying recently at Ujima Village, a 24-bed shelter in Chicago’s Grand Crossing area for homeless people who are 18 to 24 years old. It’s where he went for a bed to sleep; dinner and breakfast; a place to shower; and advice on getting his life back on track. “The staff here, they cool,” he says. “I get along with them and … the program at Ujima is very informational. They give you information on a lot of things, and I take heed to it.”
But Unity Parenting & Counseling Inc., the nonprofit group that runs Ujima Village, hasn’t been getting state funding for the past half-year, because of the standoff between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic leaders of the Illinois General Assembly. Like other nonprofits around the state that help homeless youths, Unity is uncertain how long it can continue providing the same level of services.
A. Anne Holcomb, supportive services supervisor for Unity Parenting & Counseling Inc., was once homeless herself.
“We almost had to close,” says A. Anne Holcomb, supportive services supervisor for Unity. “We actually had informed staff in August that we had no more funding as of September 1. … We tried to find other places for the youth to go in that event. But the reality is most of the emergency shelters are state-funded. And the transitional housing programs are too. So there wasn’t really any other place that was secure. We couldn’t find an option. … We only have 374 youth beds in the city.”
Go read the whole thing.
* When people have talked about the all too real long-term, permanent damage that’s being caused by this “short-term pain for long-term gain” impasse, these kids are just some of the folks who are in real danger.
As one commenter said this week, social service providers may go under and others may eventually take their place, but what about the permanent damage caused to those who can’t be served in the interim?