Entertainment » Culture

Windy City Hosts Homeless Youth Summit

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Monday Apr 28, 2014

On May 2-5 in Chicago, the Windy City Times is hosting "Owning Our Lives: Dream It. Speak It. Do It!!", a summit on LGBTQ youth. Affinity Community Services Executive Director Kim Hunt will serve as the director of the summit, which seeks to assess the current issues impacting homeless youth, and new solutions to these complex issues.

"Windy City Times wants to bring a public spotlight to these issues, inviting all major and smaller agencies and individuals addressing LGBTQ youth, including youth themselves, to participate in a new way of working together, similar to the diverse and transparent approach to the March on Springfield for Marriage Equality in 2013," said Summit host Tracy Baim, Windy City Times publisher and founder of the March.

The summit is a follow-up to the award-winning Windy City Times Generation Halsted series. That series of articles, plus several other important reports on issued related to LGBTQ youth, are available for download on the summit's website.

Each of the summit's three days will have a different area of focus. On Friday, May 2, people 25 and under who have been impacted by homelessness can discuss issues from 2-8 p.m. at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital.

On Saturday, May 3 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., youth, nonprofits, government agencies, politicians, foundations, activists, service providers, academic researchers and individuals working on these issues can meet at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Behavioral Sciences Bldg, 1007 W. Harrison. Registration is $45 for adults; free for youth.

And on Monday, May 5 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 N. State St., the issue comes before government agencies, politicians, foundations (private, public and corporate foundations encouraged to attend), academics and donors.

The first two days of the summit will be broken down into general plenary sessions and facilitated workshops focused on areas including: Housing issues (shelters, DCFS, HUD, etc.), public policy (city, county, state, federal), legal issues (emancipation, public safety), education and job training, healthcare access, mental health and substance abuse.

While attendance at the summit is focused on youth, non-profits, service providers, government and foundations, the summit does need help from the general public. The LGBTQ and allied communities can be engaged by making donations to help cover the costs of the summit, including stipends for youth attending, food, staff, and other expenses. Experienced facilitators are needed for the first two days, and volunteers are needed with the following skill sets: Video taping, photography, note-taking, general support.

The goals of the summit include looking at the complex causes of homelessness; shining a light on existing work being done; reporting on the gaps and needs; listing short-term and long-term strategies; and creating action steps

"As an appropriation chairman overseeing the State budget, every day I see how education, sports, arts, healthcare, 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," said State Rep. Greg Harris. "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."

Additional Summit Team members include adult ally Bonn Wade, and youth organizers Breezy Connor, Zanareyah Phillips and Keyshia LayMorris, who said, "Marriage is behind us. Housing is next. What are we doing to fight for the cause? The time starts NOW!"

"Addressing LGBT youth homelessness requires a team effort. This summit presents an opportunity for everyone-from policy makers and faith leaders to advocates and activists-to come together and find new ways to address an ongoing challenge," said Commissioner Bechara Choucair, M.D., Chicago Department of Public Health.

The Crossroads Fund is the 501-c-3 fiscal partner of the summit. The foundations and groups so far assisting with the summit include True Colors Fund, Polk Bros Foundation, Lefkofsky Foundation, Pierce Family Foundation, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Affinity Community Services, Lambda Legal, and Chicago House. The venues donating their facilities are: Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, the University of Illinois at Chicago Gender and Sexuality Center, and the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

For more information or to register, visit
http://chicagosummit.lgbthomelessness.com/ or email youthsummit@affinity95.org

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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