Bill helps homeless teens seeking shelter

Update: 4:30 pm, 5/9/17, Tuesday 

ILLINOIS -- Being underage can be a major obstacle when homeless teens seek an escape. But now, a new bill could give them faster access to shelter, allowing minors to legally move into housing without parental consent.

"Everyday, it's a new story. Every day, it's a new face and there are stories that'll bring you to tears."

Tiffany Mathis had been working with homeless youth in Central Illinois for 15-years. She says the number of young people she meets without homes is heartbreaking.

"They often start so young. Some come from loving situations and death happens or life happens."

Homelessness affects about 25,000 young people in the state annually. For many, it can be difficult to get back on their feet.

"Whatever personal roadblocks and barriers that you're facing, where are you supposed to go?"

Right now, teens seeking refuge can use dozens of shelters around the state, but without a parent's consent, options are scarce.

But, a new bill could change that. It could give minors, between 16 - 18, a chance to use transitional shelters, without permission from a parent or a judge.

"You want a teenager, if they're seeking help, to be able to access those services and programs that a shelter provides. I mean, you don't want to jeopardize anybody's safety by putting them back on the streets if they don't have the proper permission."

Transitional shelters are temporary living spaces which provide residents with services and resources so they can move forward. Bill supporters say they believe it would change lives for the better.

"Just giving those students a safe space because that is just necessary for health and well-being of our youth."

The bill now awaits a vote in the Senate. It passed the House 71 - 40.

Those who oppose the bill say they needed more questions answered. One-third of homeless youth say they've been physically abused. 

Original: 9:40 am, 5/9/17, Tuesday

ILLINOIS -- According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), every year around 25,000 young people find themselves homeless in the state. Without a safe place to go, many lawmakers believe their lives are put in danger.

It's why they proposed a new bill allowing minors, from 16 - 18, to take advantage of transitional shelters without their parents' permission.

Right now, minors must first be emancipated in order to use a shelter. Without a place to go, many are sleeping in places such as cars or other public spaces.

According to the CCH, about a third of homeless young people say they've left home because of physical abuse. Lawmakers who support the bill say they these shelters are safe alternative.

"You want a teenager, if they're seeking help, to be able to access those services and programs that a shelter provides. I mean, you don't want to jeopardize anybody's safety by putting them back on the streets if they don't have the proper permission. You want them to be safe," says Steve Staldeman (D- Rockford).  

The bill is facing some opposition. It passed the House 71 - 40 and now is awaiting a vote in the Senate. Some lawmakers are concerned the bill would encourage more minors to leave home.

There are dozens of transitional shelters for teens around the state. Each offers counseling services so children can ultimately reunite with their parents.

Those who support the bill say these shelters are not meant to be permanent solutions but a way to keep those vulnerable protected.


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