How the pandemic is impacting childhood homelessness

WGN Investigates

CHICAGO — Nationwide, the number of homeless children is estimated to be in the millions. In Chicago, kids often have no home to go to. And while living on the streets has always been risky, now with a pandemic, it is becoming even more dangerous. With social distancing the new reality, shelters have had to cut number of available beds and many services have closed their doors.

Natalie says she had no choice but to leave, “Living at home wasn’t really safe for me anymore. Since I’m pregnant I have to do what’s best for myself and my baby.” 

It was not easy for Rashawn either. She says, “I just managed to find a way to survive and get help.”

That was life before the pandemic. Now, both are living in a shelter and trying to make the best of a difficult situation.

Susan Frankel is the CEO of National Runaway Safeline. She says that nobody wants to live on the streets.

“I think it’s really important to understand that kids are not running to something, they are running from something,” she said.

But now, all the usual escapes like school, work, libraries, the YMCA are shut down. Young children are locked in 24-7 with no outlet.

According to Frankel, “We are seeing young people as young as 8-9-10 reaching out to us.” It is a fact she finds heartbreaking and frightening.

There are several organizations offering help. Here are the three we spoke with in our report:

National Runaway Safeline
1800RUNAWAY.org
Hotline: 1-800-RUNAWAY

The Night Ministry’s Open Door Shelter
West Town
773-784-9000

Unity Parenting and Counseling Inc.
Ujima Village Youth Shelter
312-455-0007 

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