* A group of high school students joined homeless activists and somehow got inside the executive mansion today…
* Students Protest Higher Education Cuts at Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Five protesters who had purchased tickets to the CSO show entered the performance hall and dropped a banner from the second-floor balcony. The banner read “Sam Zell, Ken Griffin, Tell Rauner: Don’t Cut Colleges.” Security and audience members quickly moved to take the banner down, according to Wood. After about 15 minutes inside, security threatened the protesters with arrest, and the protesters left the building.
*** UPDATE *** The explanation for today’s action…
100 homeless youth, providers, and allies took to the Governor’s Mansion this morning to protest the Governor’s refusal to release funding for housing services. They pushed for Governor Rauner to support HB 4955/SB 2603, legislation that releases millions from state funds earmarked for services that provide affordable housing and end homelessness.
“I traveled hundreds of miles to ask the Governor why he thinks my future’s not worth investing in,” said Kevin Flint, age 23, who rode on a bus this morning from Chicago to get a hearing with the Governor. “I want to move out on my own and become independent, but the Governor is harming the program that can help me do that.”
Kevin ended up spending 18 months in adult prison for failing to register as an address with parole for crimes he had committed ten years before as a juvenile. When he got out, he was homeless, but ready to change his life. He found Neon Street Dorms, a state-funded homeless youth program which helped him get on his feet. During the last six months, Kevin’s mother died and he was diagnosed with a serious heart condition which required surgery. Despite these difficulties, Neon Street has been able to support him in finding full time employment, getting back into school and saving money for an apartment.
“Our youth are doing their best to better their circumstances but because of the budget crisis their futures and the futures of the programs that assist them are in jeopardy. It is horrifying that the person elected to lead our state continues to stand by and allow this happen,” said Jeri Linas, Executive Director of Teen Living Programs.
Due to the continued budget crisis Teen Living Program has had to make $300,000 in cuts to vital programming. The organization has also had to layoff staff. These cuts can change the circumstances of a youth’s life trajectory; it can mean the difference between becoming successfully independent or their ultimate failure and lifelong dependency in and on the system.
In February, twenty homeless youth and service providers met with the Governor to discuss HB 4955/SB 2603. Days later, Gov. Rauner, through his policy director, told the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless he would not support the funding measure for housing services.
“Governor Rauner refuses to explain why he, an individual with nine homes, will not support the release of funding for homeless services across the state, including funding for homeless youth,” said Doug Schenkelberg, Executive Director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “We implore the governor to show leadership by reconsidering and supporting legislation that would immediately release funding to ensure these youth have a place to lay their heads at night.”