It's one thing to not have a place to lay your head at night, but many homeless youths in Illinois also do not have a place to keep their personal belongings.
The Chicago Youth Storage Initiative was developed after the 2014 LGBTQ Youth Summit. Project coordinator Tracy Baim, publisher of the Windy City Times, said teens shared stories about the daily stress caused by not having a place to keep their documents, medications, clothing and other personal belongings.
"It really had some of us in tears," he said, "It was one of the most emotional things when we heard these youth talk about losing their family photos, losing really their connection to their past. It's a quality-of-life issue but it truly is also a health issue and a safety issue."
This summer, the initiative is building lockers at a South Side overnight youth shelter as a pilot, and possibly two additional sites. Baim said the Chicago Youth Storage Initiative also is working on developing a web-based documentation project. Adult storage models exist in San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York, but Chicago is the first U.S. city to coordinate an effort for young people.
Baim said it's critical to solve the needs of homeless youth now, because it's the number one indicator of adult homelessness.
"If we spend a little bit of money now, it will have an amazing effect on saving money in the health-care system, in the criminal justice system and in the adult homeless shelter system," he said. "This is one of those really terrific things that will have great benefits for society and for the individuals at the same time."
More than 12,000 Chicago youths from age 14 to 21 were estimated to be homeless in 2014, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
The report is online at windycitymediagroup.com.