New transition housing for LGBT youth hopes to offer a safe space

New transition housing for LGBT youth hopes to offer a safe space

Being young, as well as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, comes with its own challenges, but some young people in Chicago face an additional challenge: homelessness. A new transitional housing program in Humboldt Park, El Rescate, hopes to build both community and an accepting space, while also helping LGBT youth off the street.

"Queer youth are overrepresented in the population of homeless young people" as they are often forced out of their homes through "familial rejection," said Cassandra Avenatti, empowerment director and housing coordinator at the nonprofit VIDA/SIDA.

They also often face unique challenges, particularly "institutionalized discriminiation in federally funded programs," according to a report on gay and transgendered youth by the Center for American Progress.

Recent estimates of the number of homeless youth in Chicago put the number at up to 3,000, with only 209 youth shelter beds available across the city.

This gets even smaller for LGBT youth: Avenatti said that there are a handful of emergency shelters for LGBT people, but that more long-term "LGBT housing is nonexistent in Chicago."

The new housing will allow youth the chance to learn to live communally, as well as provide in-house counselling and offer education and employment assistance services. It will open on March 1.

"We don't want folks leaving the program in the same state they came to us," Avenatti said.

© Community Renewal Society 2011

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