Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homeless Youth, Art and Poetry

Tonight part of the Kaio Community went to Anshe Emet Synagogue. We were there to attend the “Concrete Dreams”: the 6th Annual Homeless Youth Activism Art Show & Speak Out. We had first heard about the program while working outreach. One of our contacts on the streets invited us to attend. He was proud of his work and of the organizations work. We attended to show our support.

The Art Show was sponsored by a number of important groups that aid homeless youth. They include the Night Ministry, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Lakeview Action Coalition. The youth prepared and planned the night at The Broadway Youth Center which is a program of Howard Brown Health Center.

The art was displayed on boards around the room. One wall consisted of photos and bios of famous people who had experienced homelessness. They included john Drew Barrymore, Hale Berry, Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Carrey, Jim Carrey, Charlie Chaplin, Kelly Clarkson, Kurt Cobain, Ella Fitzgerald, Ben Franklin…you get the idea. It was an impressive and hopeful wall.

The program provided food for the many guests. The program consisted of the H.E.L.L.O. Drum Chorus, a poetry slam, dance and song.

This was not an insignificant night. It is important that people begin to take the plight of the homeless seriously. This recession is devastating local and state budgets. Donors are giving less and yet the ranks of the homeless swells. Due to the related health and legal problem homelessness becomes everyone’s problem. If we are truly compassionate we do not need that as an incentive to act.

There are 2 million homeless youth in America each year. 20% to 40% if the homeless youth are LGBT. In Illinois there are almost 25,000 homeless youth who are not with parents. 50% of them have been refused youth services. There are over 2,000 homeless youth on the streets of Chicago every night.

It is no accident that the Art Show is presented in November. November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. November is also National Runaway Prevention Month. To show support for runaway youth Americans are asked to replace their front porch light bulb with a green light bulb. So, go ahead, go change your porch light bulbs now, I can wait!

So we went and supported many of the youth that we see every night on outreach. We supported youth who we know are sleeping outside, who we know are at risk for health and legal problems. We supported youth who we know want to be recognized, valued and advocated for. It was a good night.

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