You Said It: The Harbour’s Emergency Housing Is Needed Now More Than Ever

You Said It: The Harbour's Emergency Housing is Needed Now More Than Ever

Mission: The Harbour provides emergency housing and services to youth experiencing homelessness in order to promote safety, stability, and personal growth.

For more than 45 years, The Harbour has served as a safety net for community youth ages 12-23 in crisis. Our beginnings were a community response to a young woman experiencing family trauma, with no place to turn for safety, save a juvenile detention center. Today, homeless youth find more than a bed as we provide safety, security, and opportunities for a successful tomorrow. Through our emergency shelter, transitional housing, and wraparound case management including specialized services for pregnant and parenting youth, we strive to break the pattern of youth homelessness.

Our numbers tell the story of this past year:

  • 82 youth were housed at our Safe Harbour Emergency Shelter. This represents an increase of 41 percent in comparison to FY 18.
  • Across the agency, 130 youth and 13 infants and toddlers were provided housing and supportive services, a 52 percent increase over past year.
  • A longitudinal look at Emergency Shelter utilization noted an increase of 135 percent in FY19 as compared to our historical 10-year average.
  • Of the 25,000 youth that are homeless each year in Illinois, over half are located outside of the city, and 92 percent do not receive needed service. [The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Homeward Bound, Spring 2001.]

These statistics confirmed what our case managers already knew: Many more youth found their way to The Harbour last year than any time in our past. Often youth have sought shelter after being locked out or abandoned by their parents or guardian, often after revealing pregnancy or sexual orientation. Many flee abuse, neglect, poverty, rejection, and/or family conflict. This year, some came to us from another shelter, a mental health or rehabilitation facility, or juvenile detention center, exposing a longer history of trauma, personal pain, and challenge. Not only did our days of care increase, but the complexity of the issues facing many youth increased as well.

The Harbour shelter

And yet, regardless of their story, we offer every youth transportation to safety as needed, a secure night’s sleep, a meal, clean clothes, and personal necessities. On the next day and many days after, our staff welcomes, listens, probes, and brainstorms to create a youth driven care plan. The plan will focus on securing resources to help a youth return home if that is possible, building needed skills to be successful through our transitional living facilities, and addressing the crisis that created homelessness, as a means to building a viable and productive future.

Ours is a story of presence, creating safety and security as a means to empower youth to realize their potential, their best selves. Our task is growing as the need for safe housing and security has not diminished, and as we have shown, continues. Our long-time volunteer and board chair, Gene Servillo, shared this as a simple means to understand his long-term involvement at The Harbour:

That’s why it was so important to me to have the opportunity to be part of an organization that works so hard to help young women achieve success despite the hazards of family breakdown, broken spirits, and dysfunctions.  

Our theme this year is “Why I Harbour?” We have heard of staff dedication, recognizing the importance of safety as critical to empowering youth, caring for youth in crisis while watching them blossom with us, and recognizing our collective responsibility and commitment to provide youth safety and safety to realize their full potential and development. We invite you to theharbour.org to learn more about our work as you reflect on “Why I Harbour?” We invite you to join us at our Casino on Saturday, Oct. 12 to support our important and needed work.