Advocates estimate that between 20-40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ. The number of LGBTQ-friendly beds for homeless youth in Chicago, however, is small.
Looking to curb that trend, a group of Chicago-based community advocates is starting an organization dedicated to combating LGBTQ youth homelessness.
Project Fierce Chicago (PFC), a grassroots organization made up of social workers and advocates, launched a fundraising campaign April 2 on Indiegogo.com .
The group says it hopes to add to pre-existing services for LGBTQ homeless youth, providing long-term housing.
"We are unique but we do not stand alone, and we will need the support and partnership from existing LGBTQ youth service providers in Chicago," said Cassie Warren, a sexual health educator and one of the group's five organizers. "One of the reasons we decided to go the grassroots route is because we don't want to complete for funding with our sibling organizations who do amazing, radical work."
Organizers of the project also include Katrina Sanford, André Pérez, Cassandra Avenatti, and Jackie Boyd. According to a fundraising video, the organizers boast over 35 collective years of experience working with youth and around housing.
PFC has already raised more than $3,000 towards its launch, with a goal of $10,000 to for a down payment on a foreclosed home to set up headquarters.
Just a handful of service providers offer LGBTQ-affirming housing for youth in Chicago. Organizers say they hope to work with those providers to increase services.
"Emergency shelters are incredibly important and meet the urgent needs of homeless young people," said Avenatti. "We would like to provide a complement to overnight housing for this population. Stability and consistency are extremely important for a successful transition to living independently and can be harder to achieve with spaces that are not guaranteed to be available each night."
Organizers are still ironing out the details about the PFC's structure but say it will be mostly volunteer-run. The group is filing for non-profit status.
PFC is raising funds through May 5. For more information on the project and donating, check out: indiegogo.com/projects/project-fierce-support-a-grassroots-effort-to-address-queer-youth-homelessness?c=home.