GET US HOME: A New Vision for Chicago’s LGBTQ Homeless Youth
Despite dangerously low temperatures, thousands of homeless LGBTQ youth are on the street each night in Chicago. Project Fierce Chicago is a grassroots group working to create transitional housing for these young people on Chicago’s South or West side. The group has been organizing for a year, and is launching an Indiegogo campaign on April 1st to raise the remaining $25,000 needed to purchase a home by Fall 2015.
“Achieving independence presents many challenges for youth in the best of circumstances. For LGBTQ youth who may have been kicked out of their homes, expelled from care systems, and have nowhere to turn for support, the possibility of achieving stability is greatly diminished,” explains Cassandra Avenatti, founder of Project Fierce Chicago.
Record low temperatures this winter have underscored the need for housing, resulting in 30 cold-related deaths. Only a handful of shelters exist to meet the overwhelming demand, and LGBTQ youth face violence within the shelter system. Lack of familial support and institutional resources puts LGBTQ youth at greater risk for violence, suicide and chronic homelessness.
Project Fierce Chicago is comprised of youth workers and community members volunteering their time and resources to realize their vision. “I spent my young adulthood struggling to find safe places to stay. I felt alone, but I wasn’t. Too many youth face housing instability, and I’m excited to be a part of a creative solution addressing it,” explains co-founder André Pérez.
Project Fierce Chicago’s vision is to provide LGBTQ young adults ages 18-25 stable housing and support in building the skills needed to achieve independence. The group is fundraising to secure a 3-flat in South Shore, Austin or West Garfield Park in which to house 8-10 young people by January 2015.
The group reports raising over 1/3 of their first year’s operating budget through individual donations. Last year, Project Fierce Chicago’s Indiegogo campaign raised $10,000 in 20 days – 5 times the amount of money the group aimed for initially. After a year of growing their collective, fundraising and planning with other housing organizations, they are setting their sights high. “Our goal is to raise $25,000 in 25 days with this year’s campaign. If we accomplish or surpass this goal, we can purchase a home before next winter,” Perez says.
Project Fierce Chicago’s Indiegogo campaign runs from April 1st – April 25th 2014 and can be found at igg.me/at/getushome. Get Us Home, a campaign wrap party, will be held on April 24th at Nisei Lounge (3439 N Sheffield Ave) from 7-10 pm. Their website is www.projectfiercechicago.org