360 Youth Services will use $3 million in federal funding for a homeless shelter for youth ages 18-24 – Chicago Tribune

Naperville-based 360 Youth Services has rented 15 rooms at an area hotel throughout 2021 as a crisis shelter for 34 young people between the ages of 18 and 24.

In the first few months of 2022, that number jumped to 37, and those numbers don’t include those who are homeless on the agency’s emergency housing waiting list.

“If you have a car, we can’t prioritize you because you have a house – like it’s your car,” said Valerie Tawrel, 360’s housing director. is the least we can say.”

With such demand for emergency shelter, changes are afoot for the nonprofit now that it receives a $3 million federal grant guaranteed by U.S. Representatives Bill Foster, D-Naperville and Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, under an omnibus bill recently passed by Congress.

Dawn Melchiorre, interim CEO of 360 Youth Services, said the money will be used as a down payment to purchase a building, such as acquiring a gated hotel, similar to what DuPage PADS is doing with a former Red Roof. Inn at Downers Grove.

“It’s absolutely a model we’re looking at,” Melchiorre said.

Tawrel said the basic plan is for customers to have space for basics – a safe place to sleep and charge their phones, shower and get clean clothes and food – as well as provide security services. support for educational, vocational and mental and physical health needs.

360 program director Precious Bradley said last year that 41% of young people who stayed in the shelter said they had mental health issues, and that’s where the agency needs to expand its services.

For example, she says, it’s difficult to help clients find jobs if they have social anxiety. “We have to fix that first before we can help them reach their full potential,” Bradley said.

Many of 360’s clients don’t have jobs because they don’t have the identification needed to get a job, such as an address, she says.

“Just over 90% of the people in my shelter now have secure jobs with the help of the case manager,” Bradley said.

Jennifer Shanahan, grants manager for 360 Youth Services, said that since 2000, the agency has maintained a transitional housing model where clients stay for two years, stabilize, and move out to stable housing.

Since 2017, rapid relocation has been introduced where clients can obtain a lease in their name and continue to receive support. The amount of housing assistance they receive decreases as they become more independent.

“Now this emergency shelter adds to that continuum of care,” Shanahan said.

People in urgent care are assessed to see if they are eligible or need additional programs, she said.

Melchiorre said the organization’s vision is to make sure people between the ages of 18 and 24 “know they have a place where they can be safe and loved.” Most often, the most vulnerable people in the community are people of color and LGBTQ youth, she said.

Foster said one of the main jobs of elected officials in Congress is to help fix some of the holes in our society’s safety net. Sadly, many LGBTQ youth are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless because families aren’t supportive or they feel pressure to grow up in an unwelcoming community, he said.

LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to commit suicide and 15 times more likely to become homeless, Casten said, and it’s not something endemic to their sexuality.

“It’s because we have a whole society, too many parts of our society, that are quick to judge because of this and unfortunately it’s not going away any time soon,” he said.

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