LGBTQ Host Home Program
Click here to watch our new video featuring Joni, Karen & Georgette!
Georgette is a former Host Home youth, and Joni and Karen are the Host Home volunteers with whom Georgette lived. Hear their experiences firsthand!
Click here to view a short video about the LGBTQ Host Homes Program.
An innovative approach to moving Chicago’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth beyond life on the streets
There are an estimated 24,968 unaccompanied homeless youth up to the age of 21 in the state of Illinois.1 On any given night within Cook County, there are nearly 2,000 youth on the streets, of which 20-40% self-identify as LGBTQ. For some youth, they are asked to leave home because of their sexual orientation and gender presentation; for others, economics or family conflict might force them to flee.
In October 2009, UCAN launched the LGBTQ Host Home Program, which is an innovative housing model providing an alternative to the shelter system for LGBTQ homeless youth. The program trains Host Home volunteers who invite homeless LGBTQ youth aged 18 to 24 into their homes for one to two years. The goal of the program is to ease youth into adulthood and towards a path of independent living by providing a safe home and the stability necessary for the youth to focus on pursuing educational and vocational opportunities. In the words of Bonnie Wade, Associate Director, host homes "help people move beyond life on the streets." The program offers varied and ongoing supportive services for both youth and the Host Home volunteers, including voluntary therapy at no charge provided by Live Oak.
The program works with community partners to screen youth who are then referred to the Host Homes Advisory Council, which is comprised of licensed social workers, clinical psychologists and former homeless youth. After interviews by the Council, UCAN staff evaluate selected youth for the program, and youth are then paired with host home volunteers through a matching process.
The Host Home Program uses an innovative approach when interacting and forming relationships with youth participating in the program, many of whom have been in the child welfare and/or homeless youth social service systems for years. Wade explains, "We work from an anti-oppression, harm reduction, and positive youth development framework. These grounding principles place youth at center as experts in who they are and host volunteers and staff as supports in helping them achieve their life goals."
Youth agree upon house courtesies with their Host Home volunteers and draw up their own life road maps. Wade explains that "Be Present and Listen" is the motto for the program, and that the most successful Host Home volunteers often are the ones that do not push youth. She explains, "We learned from the initial volunteers that often when they take two steps back and try to establish relationships and trust rather than pushing the youth into what they (host) think is best, that it works."
In the words of a Host Home alumna, "Being in the host home gave me the tools and the confidence to be self-sufficient."
For many youth and Host Home volunteers, the opportunity to participate in this program is life changing. Erin Edwards, UCAN's new Corporate & Foundation Grant Manager, and her partner Liz Przybylski were part of the initial group of Host Home volunteers. She said, "We learned that teamwork is essential to making sure that a couple can host a youth successfully." Edwards also explains that there will be a time of adjustment for both the youth and the Host Home volunteers when the youth moved into their home. "It wasn't easy, but it was one of the most meaningful things we've done."
For Edwards, this experience influenced her career path. "One of the reasons why I wanted to work at UCAN was because of the Host Home Program. It inspired me. UCAN is doing something so innovative and making a change, which is something that I want to be involved in."
Want to Become a Host?
LGBTQ Host Home volunteers are committed to building community in innovative ways by opening their homes to homeless LGBTQ youth. Volunteers can be in a committed relationship, single, live with a group of people, etc. They believe that while LGBTQ young people are experts in their lives they might not necessarily be experts in negotiating the transition to adulthood and would benefit from a safe and supportive living environment! Still interested? Check out the criteria below:
- Be at least 25 years old
- Have lived in Chicago for at least one year
- Complete criminal background checks
- Provide three references
- Complete an initial interview and follow up home interview
- Have an extra bedroom for the youth
- Complete comprehensive training within an LGBT affirmative practice model; focusing on adolescent development, harm reduction, trauma informed frameworks and anti-oppression work
- Have renter/homeowner’s insurance
Youth we serve
The LGBTQ Host Home Program will serve LGBTQ homeless youth who have a desire to leave the streets, disengage from street culture and be ready to work on education, employment and housing goals freeing them to identify and reach their goals and create an independent self-satisfying life.
Support our work
To learn more about becoming a part of the LGBTQ Host Home Program please contact Francisco Monzon, Vice President Transitional Teen Services at (312) 738-5921 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Para comunicarse con alguien en Español, favor de llamar a Francisco Monzon al numero 708-201-3028.
For a downloadable brochure about the LGBTQ Host Home Program, please click here.
To apply to be a Host Home volunteer, click here to learn more and to download the application forms.
To read an exciting story about KPMG's pride@kpmg Chicago Chapter volunteering expierence click here.
To read an inspirational story about a Host Home Volunteer couple who won UCAN's Volunteer of the Year Award click here.
To read about our one of our host home youth who represented UCAN at the White House, click here.
1 University of Illinois at Chicago, 2004