Community members held a fundraising event, on Jan. 28, for Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Partners ( CLASP ) at the Uptown home of activist Andy Thayer and his husband Aldo Hernandez.
CLASP provides housing for recently arrived immigrants as well as necessities such as Ventra cards. According to activist Charlotte Lill, who volunteers with the group, "Once folks come and seek asylum, and they don't have any housing, they're in detention."
The gathering came at an auspicious moment, just a day after President Donald Trump had issued an order temporarily halting refugee entries as well as banning entry for citizens from seven predominantly Muslim nations. That order was stayed by a federal judge, but not before inspiring large-scale protests at airports across the nation.
Activist John Adewoye of CLASP said that the United States still probably has the best opportunities for many LGBT individuals from other parts of the world. A native of Nigeria, he used to be a Catholic priest.
"I do tell people the United States is not perfect," Adewoye said. "It's a beautiful place with defects, because it's run by human beings."
But being able to live here and even admit to himself that he was gay was profoundly moving, he added, recalling, "That was a concept that made me stand up and help people like me."
CLASP badly needs individuals willing to open their homes to refugees and asylum seekers. Adewoye said a bed and bed-linens are the main requirements, as well as a commitment to provide meals, since newly-arrived persons will likely have no financial resources and won't be able to work for at least several months.
Adewoye said that the Ventra card served an important purpose: allowing the individual to travel about the city and understand what is like to be and feel free, adding, "I say, 'Go out and enjoy your freedom."
CLASP exists to "celebrate people who took an extra step" in securing their freedom, whether they did so by choice or not, he said. "Coming here is not an easy thing. It's great when people tell [asylum-seekers and refugees], 'Look you have someplace to go.'"
For more information, call (312) 361-4976 or visit www.facebook.com/CLASPartners/ .