New Attention Paid To Homeless Youth And Families | Chicago | New York TImes
More than 10,000 homeless students are enrolled in Chicago’s classrooms this fall, a 16 percent increase over last year and a record high, according to Chicago Public Schools data for September.
The school district’s numbers reflect a trend seen by service providers around the city: Chicago’s homeless population is becoming younger. More families are living on the street, and the number of homeless youths on their own has grown exponentially.
With a lack of affordable housing, a rising number of foreclosures and a state unemployment rate higher than the national average, the increase in homeless youths and families is putting stress on a social support system that is facing sharp cuts in budgets and programs.
“The safety net is disappearing while the need is dramatically increasing,” said Patricia Nix-Hodes, associate director of the Law Project at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “There are more and more families. The numbers show us that. It’s worrisome because it seems to be only getting worse.”
City agencies have been hit particularly hard by state and federal budget cuts. The budget at the Department of Family and Support Services has been cut by 15 percent this fiscal year, to $364 million. The decrease is mainly due to cuts in state and federal grants, which make up 96 percent of the department’s budget.
Federal stimulus money, which accounted for $40 million of last year’s budget, will not be replaced because stimulus spending has ended. Financing from the city is expected to drop 10 percent, to $15.5 million, down from $17.3 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
“We are seeing the consequences of the recession,” said John Pfeiffer, the deputy commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services.
via New York TImes