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Town hall addresses youths' needs during pandemic
by Matt Simonette
2020-05-04

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Advocates focused on ensuring that LGBT youth have access both to resources and straightforward facts during the COVID-19 pandemic presented during Equality Illinois' April 28 online town hall meeting.

As the pandemic processes, numerous LGBT youth might be finding themselves without the support systems they generally rely upon, whether those might be friends, school personnel or community organizations, noted Nat Duran, youth engagement manager for Illinois Safe Schools Alliance.

They further explained that youth are currently facing "unparalleled questions," and that adults need to both model self-care and give as many visual indications as possible of their support.

Tara Bell Janowick, who is board chair for Carbondale-based Rainbow Cafe, added that many downstate youth especially in danger of isolation since they often do not have access to the same online resources as students in Cook County or its collar counties, nor are their schools staffed with personnel who were much equipped to thoroughly address LGBT students' needs in the first place.

Rainbow Cafe normally holds Friday night meetups with its youth; those are obviously on hold for now. For the moment, Janowick added, "Our primary function has disappeared. … Being able to do that one-on-one interaction has been taken away."

Successfully engaging youth, concluded both speakers, involved speaking with them honestly while being conscientious about not inducing anxiety. Additionally, adults should remember that communication goes both ways, Duran said.

"Sometimes youth just need to talk and vent, and give in to their emotions," they added. "...Rather than [just] 'telling,' it might be more helpful just to listen."


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