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Nonprofit Ignite Chicago helping homeless youth one comeback story at a time

By Tim McNicholas

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    CHICAGO (WBBM) — There are a lot groups helping the homeless out there, but not as many dedicated specifically to homeless youth. One nonprofit is dedicated to doing just that.

They explained to Morning Insider Tim McNicholas why homeless youth are often overlooked.

Mekayla Davis is packing up for another workday. It’s a moment she doesn’t take for granted. Davis said it’s another sign of stability, and how far she’s come.

“I’ve experienced homelessness throughout my childhood,” she said. “When I was going through what I was going through in the past, I didn’t see myself being where I am today, and I’m very appreciative. I have my own home. I have my own space. I am provided with food.”

She’s a client of Ignite Chicago—a nonprofit that provides housing, a safe place to hang out and drink coffee, mental health support, and even job resources.

The group works specifically with homeless youth—ages 14 to 26.

“All young people are the future,” said CEO Stephanie Piccirilli.

READ MORE: School Districts Differ In Response To Judge’s Halt On Pritzker’s Mask Mandate Piccirilli said homeless youth ages 14 to 26 are often overlooked.

“We have found that once a young person turns 18, there are a lot of resources that go away for them, and there are a lot of family resources that no longer can apply to an 18-year-old,” Piccirilli said.

She said young people are also undercounted in the annual count of the homeless population, because they often sleep in cars, on friends’ couches, or other places where it’s harder to track them.

That means they’re underrepresented in data the government uses to decide funding for homeless programs.

“A lot of homeless youth are looked over,” Davis said. “It feels as if it’s not as important to people to help risk youth as much as they need to be helped.”

That’s why Ignite is focused on helping that age group; whether it’s with a shelter, long term housing, or a meal and a cup of coffee.

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