Chicago summit on LGBT youth homelessness calls for action

A recently released report, based on the Chicago Summit on LGBT Youth Homelessness, details the severity of LGBT youth homelessness in Chicago and strategizes about what can be done to better the lives of Chicago's youth.

More than 300 youth, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and concerned individuals came together at the summit presented by the Windy City Times in May to generate meaningful discussions. Youth, defined as 25 and under, were recruited to attend directly through shelters and service providers so that their first-hand narratives and unique perspectives could be heard. Youth even created the title of the 3-day summit, "Dream It, Speak It, Do It!"

According to the new report, 40% of homeless youth are LGBT, and an astounding 78% of LGBT youth in the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) system experience homelessness at some point. When considering issues as complex as homelessness, it is important to consider that there is not just one catch-all solution. The report makes clear that the current educational system, housing issues, laws and policies, access to healthcare, the job market, public safety, and systems such as DCFS, all intersect and influence the lives of homeless youth.

Among many recommendations outlined by the report, there needs to be more evaluation of existing programs that aim to help Chicago's homeless youth so that we can know what is working and what is not. Additionally, there needs to be a mobile app for Chicago's homeless youth to have an easy user-friendly way to get current information and resources for shelter, food, and legal help, there need to be public bath-houses and storage facilities set up for Chicago's youth, and there need to be 1,800 additional beds available for homeless youth in the city.

Perhaps most importantly there needs to be more public awareness of the issues and more inclusive discussions involving the youth themselves so that we can continue to make progress. The summit's attendees agreed that there should be a task force set up in Chicago to fill the gaps on the youth homelessness issue.

The summit followed the Windy City Times' successful series of articles called Generation Halsted, which highlighted LGBT youth issues in Chicago, brought attention to the crisis of youth homelessness, and was recognized at the 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards.