“I can’t say who I am unless you agree I’m real.” I always use that quote by Amiri Baraka to when speaking to folks about the issue of LGBT youth homelessness.
This is something that the community of Chicago is doing really well.
Last month, I had the privilege of attending the Chicago Summit on LGBT Youth Homelessness, which focused on assessing the current issues impacting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth experiencing homelessness in the Chicago region, and developing new solutions to address these complex issues. What I found most powerful about this particular summit, was that the youth voices were put front and center – and right from the very start!
The day opened with performance by YEPP, also known as the Youth Empowerment Performance Project, a program that empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth experiencing homelessness to explore their history, investigate new ways to address their struggles, and to celebrate their strengths through performance. There was a ton of energy in the room and it was a great way to start the day!
One of main recommendations that came out of the Summit (full list here) is that youth need more than just beds. In fact, State Rep. Greg Harris issued the following statement about the Summit:
“As an appropriation chairman overseeing the State budget, every day I see how education, sports, arts, health care, substance abuse counseling, physical and behavioral health, child care, parenting, affordable housing and a myriad of other issues overlap, and how challenging it is for many youth, particularly homeless youth, to access and use services. Everything we do to collaborate, coordinate and help youth access and navigate across institutions, geography, services and organizations are tasks we owe to thousands of young people who are struggling to achieve their full potential.”
We couldn’t agree more. Our position at the Forty to None Project is that we need to take a holistic approach to the issue in order to bring an end to this epidemic.
You can read more about the Chicago Summit on LGBT Youth Homelessness here.