As the weather turns warmer in Chicago and thoughts of warm lake breezes fill your fantasies, the streets of our city will be filled with kids again — some with no place to go when the sun goes down. Homelessness in Chicago is something that many of us think of during the cold winter months, but it doesn’t go away when summer comes. It’s a year-long problem, and one that begs of our generosity, even if there isn’t a holiday to tug at our heart strings or a steely wind blowing to guilt us into putting money into the cup of a beggar in a doorway.
While there are a few notable organizations in the Chicago area that have worked hard to address homelessness in the LGBTQ community, a local group of LGBTQ social workers and youth advocates are on a mission to address LGBTQ youth homelessness through a grassroots, community-funded campaign. Project Fierce Chicago has hit the ground running and was recently listed as one of the top 14 LGBTQ organizations you should know about by Chicago’s local NPR affiliate.
Project Fierce Chicago intends to purchase a CTA-accessible, foreclosed home on the South or West side, fix it up, and open the doors to LGBTQ youth as a place to live communally and access supportive services.
In an environment of intensifying government austerity, homelessness is on the rise and the gap between government funding and community need is wider than ever. LGBTQ youth, many of whom have been kicked out of their family’s homes, make up an estimated 30-40% of the approximately 15,000 homeless youth in Chicago. Cassandra Avenatti, who conceived of PFC and has been researching the idea for over a year says, “We do not want to wait for government funders to determine that queer youth homelessness is an urgent issue. Young people in our community are already profoundly aware of the urgency of the need for additional LGBTQ-competent housing. If we work collaboratively to utilize the resources within our communities, we can provide such housing on our own timeline, and with our own set of rules and values.”
PFC is raising $10,000 from the broader community to pay for a down payment on a building. The project is operated by a collective that contributes money towards the cost of the space. Once opened, PFC’s community house will be sustained primarily through in-kind donations and funding from private donors and collective members.
In addition to providing shelter and employment training, PFC’s volunteers will teach youth sustainable practices like gardening and making household items such as soap. Jackie Boyd says, “In environments where our queer and queer youth of color are not valued or seen, the ability to sustain oneself can mean the difference between surviving and thriving. One of the goals of Project Fierce Chicago is to provide youth the opportunity to garner skills to sustain themselves for the long-term.”
Readers can support PFC by donating on their Indiegogo page, liking them on Facebook, or contacting them directly about volunteering at ProjectFierceChicago@gmail.com. PFC will conclude its fundraising campaign on Sunday May 5th.
It’s not Christmas. It’s not even cold out. But do something for the LGBTQ youth in our community who need it most, every day of the year. Make your donation today, because these kids need us more than ever, and if we don’t help them right now, who will?
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Valency was born in San Francisco to hippie parents, but is a Chicago girl through and through. Ten years of Catholic school helped her develop a finely-tuned bullshit detector, as well as a love of all sorts of Catholic kitsch. Valency isn't fond of labels. She is, however, fond of embracing her many paradoxes, and walking the fine lines between religion and politics, with an eye turned toward postmodern religion, feminist theology, and challenging patriarchy from inside religious institutions. She lives on the northside with her two daughters and two female cats, and is always looking for more ways increase the estrogen in her household.