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Shining a Spotlight on LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in Illinois

PHOTO: Dozens of LGBTQ teens in Illinois will gather this weekend to discuss the current issues impacting homeless youth, and brainstorm solutions with community leaders and policy makers. Photo credit: Tracy Baim/Windy City Times.
PHOTO: Dozens of LGBTQ teens in Illinois will gather this weekend to discuss the current issues impacting homeless youth, and brainstorm solutions with community leaders and policy makers. Photo credit: Tracy Baim/Windy City Times.
May 1, 2014

CHICAGO – An event this weekend in Chicago will shine a public spotlight on LGBTQ youth homelessness in Illinois.

Tracy Baim, publisher of the gay and lesbian publication Windy City Times, is the host of the summit, “Owning Our Lives: Dream It. Speak It. Do It!!”

She says about 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ, and more than 75 percent of LGBTQ children in the care of the Department of Children's Services will become homeless.

"We have all these complicating factors with youth that are coming out younger and younger,” she says. “And not being in family situations that are supportive, either birth families or foster families, who don't really have a way to cope with them and a lot of times end up kicking the kids out or the kids end up running away."

At the summit, youths impacted by homelessness will brainstorm ideas on Friday, and on Saturday they will share their needs with community leaders and others.

Baim says Monday, a report with both short and long-term strategies will be presented to policy makers who might be able to develop strategies to bring additional resources to address the challenges facing homeless youth.

Baim adds summit organizers hope the marriage equality momentum in Illinois will help to create more resources for LGBTQ youths and change the trajectory so they can become successful adults.

"A lot of the youths that we're talking about have had to commit crimes of economic survival just because they're living on the street and they have no other means of support,” she explains. “That puts a red mark on them for life.

“They're going to have these convictions on their adult records. It's going to make them less likely to contribute to society for their entire lifespan."

Baim says the focus for the long-term needs to be on housing and education, but for now some very minor economic things that will help homeless youths are more emergency shelter beds and transportation passes.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL