We’d like to highlight an ongoing problem that we see every day here at The Salvation Army — youth homelessness.
The homeless individuals that are the most difficult to watch come through our doors are children. Nothing prepares you for the anguish on a parent’s face when he or she comes to us with a child in their arms. In that moment, a parent’s role as caregiver can feel compromised. When a mother or father feels they’ve somehow failed on the promise of parenthood… well, you feel that hurt just as much as they do.
Thankfully, at The Salvation Army, we know that no situation is black and white. Our focus is on helping men, women and children find hope in hopeless situations, regardless of their circumstances. That’s why our Bed & Bread Club® is critical to the well-being of our community — and why we need your help more than ever.
Fast Facts: Youth Homelessness in Chicago
According to the most recent City of Chicago homeless point-in-time count, the number of homeless children under 18 was nearly 1,400.
Fortunately, the majority of those boys and girls were accompanied by adults, with only 281 homeless youth that were unaccompanied. The most at-risk segment of the population were the 28 young people who were unaccompanied and unsheltered.
As with other forms of homelessness, youth homelessness comes with a lot of stigma and stereotype. The reality is that no child asked to be without a home. And the outdated and inaccurate notion of unruly “street kids” is harmful, and does little to shed light on the truth of these boys’ and girls’ situations.
When it comes to young people, there’s no clear path to homelessness, and it’s nearly always the result of circumstances beyond their control. Often children in this position have to work twice as hard as other, more fortunate, young people, especially academically. The latest data shows there are currently over 55,000 homeless children enrolled in the Illinois public school system.
Without a stable home life, many homeless kids start behind the curve. According to research through the Family Housing Fund, one third of homeless preschoolers had problems with their motor-visual abilities, and 38 percent exhibited emotional-behavioral issues. The William & Mary School of Education found that for grades 3-8, only 51 percent of homeless kids met statewide reading standards — and the majority can’t read at their grade level.
What You Can Do
This is where you can help. If you’re not a member of our Bed & Bread Club, we encourage you to join this important giving program. For a modest amount each month, you can directly fund our homeless assessment services, which serve families and individuals who’ve lost their footing in life and need help regaining stability.
1,200 individuals turn to us for shelter each night — many of whom are young boys and girls. Help us bring their lives back to normality. They deserve our help, and your support.