Chicago’s At-Risk Youth: How Can We Help?

This week, we read 11-year-old Dasani’s heartbreaking story of homelessness and “invisibility” in New York City and were left wondering: What can we do to help?
At last count, the city of Chicago conservatively estimated that more than 6,000 people are homeless any given night.  Nearly 30 percent of these homeless are children.  We’ve highlighted a few of our favorite organizations dedicated to providing a range of opportunities to underprivileged children and their families—from outstanding homeless shelters and food banks to youth arts and sports organizations.  Share your favorite organizations in the comments, and let’s work together to provide opportunities to all children in Chicago.

Free Spirit Media teaches area youth how to use video software to present their ideas.

826 Chicago: 826 Chicago helps children ages 6 to 18 grow as creative writers through one-on-one tutoring, writing workshops, field trips and more.
Blue Sky Bakery: Blue Sky Bakery provides jobs and job training to homeless and at-risk youth, teaching career and social skills that its participants can use beyond Blue Sky Bakery.
Chicago’s Coalition for the Homeless:  Founded in 1980, this organization advocates for Chicago’s homeless and helps to compile statistics and stories about Chicago’s homeless.
Deborah’s Place:  This is just one of many great shelters and support centers for homeless women in the Chicago area.  If you are interested in volunteering, we actually recommend you wait a few months—shelters often have to turn away volunteers during the holiday season, but are short helping hands the rest of the year.
Dreams for Kids: Dreams for Kids gives at-risk youth a platform for getting involved in social and leadership opportunities.
Free Spirit Media: Youth involved in Free Spirit Media work on hands-on, interactive media projects.  
Garfield Park Little League:  Garfield Park Little League is always in need of volunteer coaches, people to man the concession stand and team sponsors.
Gary Comer Youth Center& South Shore Drill Team:  Located in Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing and South Shore communities, these two programs work hand-in-hand to provide after-school programming that engages students.
Kids off the Block:  This organization gives at-risk children access to academic enrichment, health awareness, violence prevention and other programming.
Louis’ Groceries:  Louis’ Groceries operates a grocery store with access to fresh produce and other nutritional options in Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, a food desert on Chicago’s South Side.
True Star Foundation: True Star Foundation runs innovative after-school and other activities that critically engage at-risk youth.
Yollocalli:  Based at the National Museum of Mexican Art, Yollocalli provides area youth hands-on artistic experiences. Yollocalli needs volunteers, as well as donations of art supplies and other materials.

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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