Uhlich Children's Advantage Network (UCAN) welcomed guests and prospective foster parents to an April 20 open house to learn more about the organization's LGBTQ Host Home Program, additional youth outreach initiatives, and how they can help.
The LGBTQ Host Home Program is designed to identify and recruit adults who have an extra bedroom in their home to host an LGBTQ youth member. According to UCAN's website, the program is an alternative approach to shelters that provides a more stable temporary home for homeless youth ages 17-21, and labels the programs as a "permanent" transition from homelessness to independence. The program also aims to work with youth on their educational and vocational goals. Co-founder and associated director of the LGBTQ Host Home Program Bonnie Wade views the program as a great opportunity for young people who experience homelessness.
"We're trying to offer one more option for our young people who experience homelessness," said Wade.
UCAN volunteer and full-time Harold Washington College student Malaundja Gayles shared with guests her past story of struggle and personal experiences with homelessness. Unlike some shelters, Gayles believes that the program offers a friendlier, more comfortable atmosphere for growth. Gayles sees the LGBT Host Home Program as an intergenerational approach to combating homelessness that is mutually beneficial for both the participant and the host.
"The most unique aspect of this program is the sense of healing - the sense of learning and growth that you will get one on one in a family environment as opposed to living in an institutionalized setting. This program offers hope and opportunity to youth," said Gayles.
Youth enrolled in the program must be working full time and/or a full-time student. Qualified hosts must be at least 25 years old and have lived in Chicago for at least one year. They must also provide three references; complete a criminal background check, go through an initial interview and follow-up home interview; have an extra bedroom for the youth; possess renter/homeowner's insurance; and complete comprehensive training with an LGBT affirmative practice model. For more information about UCAN and the LGBTQ Host Home Program, visit www.ucanchicago.org .