Fighting the Most Urgent Need in Chicago’s LGBT Community

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When Illinois’s Bill of Rights for the Homeless was signed into law, it outlawed discrimination against homeless individuals, guaranteeing the right to remain employed, to attend school, to access emergency medical care and many more protections.

For homeless and unaccompanied youth, legal aid to help understand and access these protections is an essential service—and especially vital for homeless LGBTQ+ youth, a vulnerable population that faces additional risks of discrimination.

That’s why Chicago Coalition for the Homeless created Youth Futures: Illinois’ only full-time mobile clinic serving the civil legal needs of homeless youth. Clinic attorneys report that LGBT youth comprise as many as 26% of the clients they serve.

This innovative project is one of eight organizations that received grants this spring from the LGBT Community Fund, a donor initiative at The Chicago Community Trust dedicated to advancing the wellbeing of Chicago’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer communities.

In its third round of grant making, the Fund’s strategy was to make a difference in three areas of work that Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community identified as the most urgent and underserved: physical and mental health care; community safety; and support for LGBTQ youth and seniors. These needs were surfaced through the Fund’s Community Needs Assessment, a survey through which more than 2,000 Chicagoans representing a wide variety of sexual orientations, gender identities, ages, races, socioeconomic backgrounds and residential areas shared their insight into the assets and challenges within their community.

The complete list of Community Grants, totaling $315,000:

  • Center on Halsted
    To establish a broad coalition of law enforcement, community-based and domestic violence treatment/prevention organizations creating coordinated strategies to combat and respond to violence in Chicago.
  • Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
    To serve the civil legal needs of homeless and unaccompanied youth—a high-need, underserved population—through Illinois’ only full-time mobile clinic dedicated to this practice.
  • Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for the Elderly
    To create and promote a safe, welcoming community for LGBT low-income seniors within its intergenerational housing program through training and organizational policy review.
  • Illinois Safe Schools Alliance
    To design and launch a citywide Know Your Rights campaign for LGBTQ young people, distributing information through Chicago schools, youth-serving organizations and an app.
  • Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc.
    To provide community outreach, education, advocacy and litigation support specific to issues facing LGBTQ+ seniors.
  • Legal Council for Health Justice
    To provide free, immediate legal assistance for HIV-impacted individuals—and in particular LGBTQ people—helping eliminate health disparities and trauma caused by HIV/AIDS and its intersection with the legal system.
  • The Night Ministry
    To support a case manager, who will reduce barriers for homeless LGBTQ youth in accessing health care and social services needed to manage their health, sustain employment and ultimately achieve stability.
  • Planned Parenthood of Illinois
    To build the capacity to provide high-quality, inclusive care to transgender patients at four of its Chicago health centers.

In August 2016, the LGBT Community Fund launched its first-ever round of grant making, awarding $282,500 to 14 organizations. These Impact Grants provided funding for capacity building and for seed money for new products/organizations, or those in their infancy.

The second round of funding supported innovative, replicable projects that reach traditionally underserved populations. Three projects, each representing a collaboration between two organizations, received $350,000 in Transformational Grants in spring 2016.