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We are nearing the end of the 100-Day Challenge on Youth Homelessness in Chicago, a push to stably house 225 individuals ages 17 to 24 who are experiencing homelessness.
According to Chicago's Dashboard to End Homelessness, at any given time, there are approximately 1,500 young adults ages 18 to 24 on the city's list for transitional living programs and permanent housing. But, on average, the City of Chicago says, it takes six months for a unit to become available. As a result, it can be a challenge to stay in touch with young people as they wait for housing.
"We're exploring innovative options that had been used by other providers in other cities across the country to maintain contact with young people as they wait for housing," said Allison McCann-Stevenson, Assistant Director of Long Term Residential Services at The Night Ministry and a Chicago Team Leader for the 100-Day Challenge.
"While organizations like The Night Ministry provide after-care services for the young people who have stayed at our shelter programs, citywide, there's no process for regularly checking in with youth on the housing list," she said. "So, for example, if a young person has found housing on their own while waiting to be matched, that information may not be in the database."
"Something super innovative that we learned from another provider is a shortcut form for checking in that uses a QR code. A young person scans the code and then updates their information in the system on their own," McCann-Stevenson said.
Another objective of the challenge is to explore innovative ways to connect young people with housing in the private market. That's why the 100-Day Challenge has organized a mix and mingle event to connect young people ages 18 to 25 who are looking for a stable place to live and are willing to share household expenses.
"Market rate housing would generally be unaffordable for homeless youth on their own. But sharing housing costs with a roommate can be an affordable and sustainable solution," she said.
Attendees will also learn how to navigate finding and applying for an apartment and how they might be able to receive first month's rent and a security deposit.
Chicago is participating in the 100-Day Challenge in partnership with A Way Home America and Rapid Results Institute. McCann-Stevenson and her colleagues on the 100-Day Challenge Team will submit a report to the city with recommendations from their findings.