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Summit panel talks govm't efforts on youth homelessness
by Matt Simonette
2014-05-14

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According to state Rep. Greg Harris, Illinoisans concerned about LGBT youth homelessness need to go to Springfield and lobby with the same intensity they were willing to channel for marriage equality.

Harris, speaking as part of a panel at the LGBT Homeless Youth Summit May 3, said his colleagues have had their awareness raised about the issue from individuals who could speak from experience about its complexities.

Photo: From left: Nicole Sutton, John Pfeiffer, state Rep. Greg Harris, James Cunningham and Juliana Harms at the LGBT homeless youth summit. Photo by Hal Baim

"Most of them didn't understand that there were 24,000 homeless youth in the state of Illinois … a third of the youth are from Cook County, a third are from central Illinois, and a third are from downstate," Harris said.

Local and national studies have shown that LGBTQs make up 40 percent of the youth homeless population.

The panel, "Changing Course in Serving Homeless LGBTQ Youth: Funding, Infrastructure, and Cultural Competency," also included John Pfeiffer of the Chicago Department of Family Support Services; James Cunningham of Housing & Urban Development; and Juliana Harms of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

It was moderated by Nicole Sutton, former Project Director of REAL: Hawaii Youth Movement Exposing the Tobacco Industry.

Pfeiffer, who said his agency touched about 300,000 people a year, added that "Chicago is unique in that we have a task force, involving key stakeholders" which meets quarterly.

"We recognize that [homelessness] is a vulnerability of some of the youth we serve," noted Harms. "We look at youth who might come to us as part of an investigation."

A lot of the youth in DCFS care noted problems with the system over the course of the summit, and expressed interest in an LGBTQ youth advisory panel being formed. Harms said that is under discussion. Some studies show that LGBTQ youth in the DCFS have a 78-percent chance of becoming homeless at some point in their young adult lives.

Cunningham said that HUD does not really set policy but, rather, "We have [communities] tell us what their needs are … we fund them based on their priority needs."

He further explained the importance of agencies and organizations establishing a continuum of care so that clients experience few or no moments where vital services are interrupted. That often means collecting data on persons who are ages 18-25, since those persons won't automatically have resources made available to them when they reach age 18. It also means extrapolating techniques utilized for serving other homeless populations—Cunningham gave Houston as an example, saying that it was a city that was exemplary in providing for homeless veterans "but they're not doing a very good job on LGBTQ."

"The goal is preparing them for adult living," added Harms.

Harris elaborated on how the state's budget woes stand to hurt funding for initiatives assisting homeless youth.

"The challenge before us that at the end of this year, which is the middle of our next fiscal year, the state's temporary income tax surcharge expires," Harris said. "If that is allowed to happen, it will fall on every program, whether it's homelessness, HIV, substance abuse … all of that is going to be devastated. So the first thing to do is to be sure that my colleagues step up to the plate."

He added that many of his fellow lawmakers were interested in making sure that the state is indeed invested in prevention services that have been overlooked while the state contended with its budget crises.

"The reason people are willing to do that … is because of the face-to-face lobbying effort that a lot of folks in this room, who come down to Springfield [or] our district offices and explain what the problem is for homeless youth. … We are beginning to realize that we have a responsibility to address this problem."

See related online coverage and videos below:

LGBTQ youth summit looks at homelessness at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/LGBTQ-youth-summit-looks-at-homelessness/47280.html .

Forty to None director talks about bringing resources together at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Forty-to-None-director-talks-about-bringing-resources-together/47406.html .

VIDEOS from Closing Day:

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Tracy and Casey On Homeless Film at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: YEPP Performs at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Imani Rupert, Youth in Systems at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Luis Roman, Health at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Lara Brooks, Housing at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times: Angelica Ross, Job Training & Education at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Owen Daniel McCarter, Legal at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Nicole Sutton, Public Policy at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit Final Day: Breezi, LZ at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Tracy Baim Closing Remarks at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

VIDEOS from Youth Day:

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Keyshia Laymorris and Jamie Frazier at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Monica James presentation at the link: /www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Shawne Hinkle interview at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Shaunquel Baker interview at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Keyshia Laymorris at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Robert Vacha interview at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Monica James interview at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: David Cal interview at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .

Windy City Times Youth Summit: Breezi Connor interview at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .




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