You may not see children sleeping under bridges or asking for a spare dollar on the street, but homeless children are out there. In Illinois, public schools reported more than 59,000 homeless children in the 2013-2014 school year, and nearly half of them are out on their own.
Those kids now have one less safe place to stay because of the state budget impasse.
Normally housing four kids at a time, rooms inside the Mahoney Transitional Living facility now sit empty. Kerie Moore at the Family Counseling Center says she was supervising the shelter but, without the funds blocked by the budget impasse, this once-busy house is now quiet. It was forced to close last week.
"It's just something that is desperately needed in this area and, right now, it's just without resources," Moore said.
The closure comes after the shelter opened just last year.
"We've held on as long as we could," said Sherrie Crabb, executive director at the Family Counseling Center.
Crabb says she and Kerie helped organize getting the grants to fund the shelter. She says it takes $99,000 per year to keep the home up and running, but they can’t foot the bill by themselves.
"I think it's really upsetting that we signed a contract with the state of Illinois. We've done our part from July 1 of this fiscal year until now. But, unfortunately, we just can't go on without the funds being sent to our agency to help pay for the cost of the staff,"
Crabb says they found placement for the children staying there, but worry about those who still need help.
“It's sad to see that there was a resource here, and now there's not, and there's just not much else in the community,” Moore said.
They say this isn’t the end. Moore and Crabb say they won’t stop looking until they find the funds to reopen the shelter for homeless youth once again.
Named after Sue Mahoney, a Rosiclare school teacher who took kids in herself, the Mahoney Transitional Living facility closed its doors Feb. 14. It served the southern seven counties of Illinois, but was open to children from any county by referral.
For questions on alternative homeless children’s shelters available or to reach the Family Counseling Center to find out what services are still available in the area, call 618-658-2611.
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