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Report Shines New Light on LGBT Youth Homelessness in IL

Voices are being raised about the need to break down the barriers in Illinois that keep many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people living on the streets. 

new report details the results of the Chicago 2014 Homeless Summit in May, when more than 300 youth, activists and community leaders brainstormed solutions to address LGBT homelessness. 

Among the many findings was the need for housing, both emergency and permanent. 

Youth organizer Breezy Connor says LGBT youth often have trouble finding safe, accepting places to stay.

"We talked about having single housing, like apartments," she relates. "And they also talked about group housing, kind of like a group home setting, using some of the old buildings in Chicago that are not being used, like the hospitals, and turning them into apartments."

Connor says summit participants also talked about creating storage places for homeless youth so they can keep their personal property safe as they go from shelter to shelter, or from work to school. 

The group agreed on the need for improving access to medical, educational and job training opportunities, and legal services that assist with emancipation, eviction, and other issues. 

Event organizer Tracy Baim says drawing awareness to these problems is critical, and campaigns that increase their visibility can help educate the public, families and others. 

"One of the things I want to get involved in is doing marketing campaigns around recruitment of parents in the foster care system who are either LGBT or LGBT-friendly," she says. "Because that's one of the big gaps in the foster care system - there's just not enough parents adopting."

It's estimated that 40 percent of homeless youth and young adults are LGBT, and summit organizers hope nonprofit and government agencies will use the results for more collaboration to address the problem. 

Connor says those who attended seemed very interested in getting involved.

"They definitely were listening, and they want to help," she points out. "It's a really a huge problem - it's not just something that needs to be kept in the dark, it needs to be brought to the light and dealt with."

Projects that have already started as a result of the summit include a team producing a mobile-friendly resource website for youth, and another team developing a job fair and training for transgender youth.

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