CHICAGO — Homeless youths between the ages of 14 and 25 might soon get reduced fares on city trains and buses.
Social-service agencies led by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless urged the Chicago Transit Board to create a Homeless Youth Connect Pass at its monthly meeting Friday.
"There's a huge need," said Jeri Linas, executive director of Teen Living Programs in Chicago, adding that her agency spends $35,000 annually on transportation for homeless youths. "It's the single largest line item in my budget next to food."
Teens testified they were sometimes caught between part-time work and part-time education and they sometimes fell between the cracks in being eligible for the Chicago Transit Authority's student pass.
"I want to try to work through this," said CTA board Chairman Terry Peterson. "There has to be a way to do it. ... I've got kids caught in the middle of policy."
"I know our budget is tight," said board member Kevin Irvine. "But I would like to see some way to make this happen."
CTA President Forrest Claypool warned there are strict government regulations on the agency offering reduced fares.
"It needs to be tied to a student or educational program," he said. He added that homeless youths attending Chicago Public Schools are already eligible for the student pass.
Yet there seemed support for the proposal on the board, and Peterson vowed to "be creative" in establishing an "educational link" that would allow for homeless youths not already eligible to receive reduced fares. He planned to have a firm proposal prepared for upcoming meetings.