In an effort to further raise awareness for their upcoming activities, the Chicago LGBTQ Host Home Program organized three informational meetings in early and mid-October.
The meetings, which were held at various locations around the city, invited any interested Chicagoans to come and ask questions about the program or about the current youth homelessness problem in Chicago.
"There are not a lot of housing options for LGBTQ youth in Chicago," stated Bonnie Wade, the Host Home Program's associate director. "A recent study at [ the University of Illinois at Chicago ] found that there are about 25,000 homeless youth in Illinois, about 9,000 in Cook County and around 2,000 in the city of Chicago. Right now, Chicago has only 193 housing options for homeless youth and that includes emergency shelters. It's simply not enough."
First conceived three years ago, the Host Home Program began as the idea of a few concerned Chicagoans who wanted to create a stable housing model for Chicago's LGBTQ youth. After years of planning and training the Host Home Program is finally set to begin its host training program, where eligible volunteers will be taught how to open their homes to a LGBTQ youth and help them with what Wade said is "the next step in their lives."
"We will be holding three training periods for new hosts, one in November, one in February and a third in April, and we hope to have around ten homeless youths placed in stable host homes by the beginning of next year," said Wade. "We are looking for quality over quantity here so that we can develop a long lasting program to serve the Chicago community."
Each of the three awareness meetings held in October were reportedly well-attended by a mix of concerned Chicago residents and social-service providers. Members from the program's advisory board as well as representatives from the Host Home Program's parent organization, the Uhlich Children's Advantage Network ( UCAN ) , led the meetings and answered questions about the program's philosophy, its training program and the expectations the program has for the hosts and the youth.
Hosts for the program must be at least 25 years old; a resident of Chicago for at least one year; have homeowner's insurance; complete the program's background checks and training program; and have at least one extra bedroom.
Information about the Host Home Program can be found on UCAN's Web site, www.ucanchicago.org, or on the program's official Facebook page, which can be found by searching for LGBTQ Host Home Program, UCAN.