After attending an art and talent show produced by a group of homeless youth in Chicago, then-Mayor Richard Daley was so impressed, he accepted the young people’s invitation to talk about issues affecting homeless youth in the city, and the need for more overnight shelters.
As a result of that conversation, the mayor formed a task force on homeless youth. One year later, The Crib, a 20-bed, low-threshold shelter, opened its doors for a 4-month trial period with a grant from the city of Chicago.
The Crib is a collaborative effort involving many agencies and volunteers. Lakeview Lutheran Church houses the shelter, the Night Ministry staffs the shelter, and First Slice Café uses profits from its restaurant to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner on weekdays. The church and other volunteer groups provide meals on weekends.
In its first month, The Crib provided a safe place to sleep to 59 young people and turned away 141 due to lack of space. Realizing that the low-threshold shelter was filling an important need, the city extended its funding for a full year.
“Having a safe place where homeless youth can go to spend the night and get out of danger is extremely important,” says Jennifer Ho, deputy director at the federal government’s United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Current Mayor Rahm Emanuel agrees. His first city budget, released in October, includes $250,000 to fund a second low-threshold overnight shelter for homeless youth.