By Betty Bogg
Connections for the Homeless runs a residential program for homeless young adults between the ages of 18 and 24. This program, called Our House, started in a two-flat purchased specifically for this purpose by community members.
Connections leases the building at an affordable rate and staffs it 24 hours a day. As part of one of its two units, the building has a large finished basement with its own bathroom and multiple rooms that could potentially be used as bedrooms. However, the building is considered a two-unit building and, thus, under the 3-Unrelated Rule, Connections is allowed to house only six young adults in it, even though the building could easily house nine.
In total, Connections’ youth program currently houses 35 young people, including the six living in the Our House two-flat. The rest live in rented, scattered-site units. Many of our residents have graduated from Our House to these more independent living situations, and the majority share their units with other youth who can’t afford apartments of their own. Evidence is showing that living in shared housing not only increases affordability for residents but that, for young residents, it increases stability and housing success.
It is difficult to count the actual number of homeless youth in north suburban Cook County – young people who are often couch-surfing and not in touch with service-providers. The most recent count by the Alliance to End Homelessness in suburban Cook County found approximately 80 homeless youth in our region. However, we estimate that the number is much higher.
Connections has an active waiting list of 20 homeless youth, and we receive additional inquiries for housing each month. Being able to provide beds for three additional youth at Our House would be a significant addition to our program and benefit the community by helping three more of its young people to reach their potential.
Homeless youth are just one group of people who need the City of Evanston to repeal the 3-Unrelated Rule. Connections for the Homeless sees many senior citizens struggling to pay for their apartments on fixed incomes.
We see people who were born and raised in Evanston and are now working at wages that are insufficient for them to live in Evanston now as adults.
We see people trying to survive on minimum wage jobs or disability income who might be able to make ends meet in Evanston if they could share a large house with other renters.
And, yes, we see many students who need the affordability of shared housing as well.
Connections stands behind the recommendation of our program, Joining Forces for Affordable Housing, to repeal the 3-Unrleated Rule. We urge the City to take swift action to support its residents in need of affordable housing – including youth.
We hope that, by summer, three more young people experiencing homelessness can move into our two-flat and continue their journey to self-sufficiency.
— Ms. Bogg is Executive Director of Connections for the Homeless.