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By Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, United Airlines Legal Department and Baker McKenzie

A 2014 study by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) estimated that there are almost 140,000 homeless residents in the City of Chicago.  Many of Chicago's homeless are children and young adults - with more than 22,000 attending Chicago Public Schools.  Across the State, Illinois school districts identified almost 60,000 students in homeless situations during the 2013-14 school year, a 100% increase over five years.  With nowhere to sleep at night and lacking consistent support and adequate resources, homeless youth struggle daily to obtain even the most basic essentials of life and too often find themselves isolated, unprotected, undernourished and acutely vulnerable.  Unfortunately, the problem of homelessness in Chicago and across the State of Illinois remains a real and ever present challenge as the number of Illinois' homeless population continues to grow at an alarming rate year over year. 

Homeless youth face a myriad of legal challenges that obstruct their path to self-sufficiency and stability.  These legal issues range from education to emancipation, from foster care to family law, and from delinquency to domestic violence.  The solutions to these challenges are likewise elusive as resources and advocacy is limited and not readily accessible, especially in an era of shrinking budgets and the absence of reliable social services.  Empowerment of our youth to effectively navigate the struggle against homelessness requires access to effective legal services to protect their basic rights and equip them with the tools to move beyond the limitations of their current realities.

This Homeless Youth Handbook was developed through the collaborative engagement of the Law Project of CCH, the United Airlines Legal Department and the law firm of Baker McKenzie to provide practical and accessible legal resources for homeless youth in Illinois.  The Handbook furthers the CCH mission of advocating to prevent and end homelessness and supports the shared commitments of the United Airlines Legal Department and Baker McKenzie to positively impact and strengthen the communities in which we live and work through the provision of dedicated pro bono legal services aimed at disadvantaged and at risk populations among us. 

We owe our deepest gratitude to the many organizations and professionals who serve the homeless youth of Illinois each and every day.  Most especially, this Handbook book is dedicated to those youth who, without the guidance, information or legal assistance made possible by our work and our communities, have suffered the loneliness, disconnection and abuse no young person should ever face.  We sincerely hope that this Handbook provides a valuable resource to our State’s youth and to those social workers, counselors, teachers, police officers, health care professionals and the many others who provide daily support in the fight for justice in the battle against homelessness.

Brett Hart 
Executive Vice President 
General Counsel & Secretary, United Airlines, Inc.

Patricia Nix-Hodes 
Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Michael Smith 
Managing Partner, Chicago
Baker McKenzie