Members of Congress are allocating funds to help local nonprofits build a shelter for vulnerable youth.
As the effects of the pandemic still reverberate through communities, a local non-profit and two local federal officials announced increased help is being provided to youth most in need.
360 Youth Services, a Naperville-based nonprofit, together with Rep. Bill Foster and Rep. Sean Casten, announced plans to use $3 million in federal funding for an emergency youth shelter. LGBTQ and minority homeless people aged 18-24. Dawn Melchiorre, acting executive director of 360 Youth Services, said the money will help the group expand its aid further than it currently can.
According to officials at 360 Youth Services, the effects of the pandemic have left an increased number of young people homeless. In response, the group set up emergency shelter at a hotel in the area.
“We have 15 rooms right now,” Melchiorre said. “We have a long waiting list; so we know there are more needs than we can currently handle.
Melchiorre said young people in this age group may not have the income to cover all the expenses for food, housing and transportation.
“They make these decisions: ‘Do I pay rent?’ or, ‘Do I put gas in my car to get to work?’ “How can I feed myself? and something has to give,” she said. “What we often see is housing that really breaks these young people down.”
Housing director Valerie Tawrel said that with the money, the group plans to build or find a larger space that increases the number of young people the group can house. Additionally, it would expand the services the group can offer.
“Anywhere from a relatively modest 25-bed unit that would have a really inclusive space to maybe bigger than that,” Tawrel said. “It’s just more about fully understanding the needs and making sure we’re inclusive and comprehensive in our plan. The group aims to provide shelter, health services and other basic necessities, such as a place to shower and charge a phone. The aim is to provide stages for young people to become more self-sufficient over time through programs such as their rapid relocation, with the help of 360 Youth Services, which allows young people admitted to have a lease in their name.
“An important next step is housing. We want to bring them towards self-sufficiency,” Tawrel said.
Funding comes from the $1.5 Trillion Omnibus Appropriations Bill, HR 2471signed by President Joe Biden on March 15. The bill includes millions of dollars in funding for community projects.
Foster, Rep. Illinois’ 11and district, and Casten, the representative of Illinois’ 6and district, worked to secure funding for this and other local community projects.
“One of our main jobs as an elected member of Congress is to try to fix some of the holes in our society’s safety net,” Foster said. “Unfortunately, many young LGBTQ+ people lack the primary safety net many of us depend on, which is our family.”
360 Youth Services clients include young people who lack family support. Casten said the help provided by the group creates a support system for these young people.
“If you’re lucky enough to go to one of the 360 facilities, you see a community,” Casten said. “You see people living together in a house. They share their meals together. They have a safe space where they can go.
A link to the 360 Youth Services website can be found here.