In May, two Salt Lake women will walk 3,000 miles across the country in order to raise awareness of homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.
Chloe Noble and Jill Hardman are calling their journey Homeless Youth Pride Walk 2009: A Queer Walk Across America. The pair will set out on foot from Seattle and travel to Washington, D.C. over a period of several months. They will live homeless along the way, and spend their time interviewing and filming the queer homeless youth that they meet. After reaching D.C., the two will then travel by bus to New Orleans and end their long journey in Austin, Texas. Along the way they hope to give presentations about queer homeless youth at various gay and lesbian community centers to help raise awareness.
“Almost forty percent of homeless youth in America identify as LGBTQ,” said Noble. “We want to help give this incredibly diverse group of queer youth a voice and a platform to stand on. Studies show that many LGBTQ homeless youth who receive appropriate guidance, support, resources, and encouragement, eventually become successful members of the LGBTQ community. By raising awareness we hope to inspire others to make sure more resources are available to queer homeless youth for this reason.”
Noble said that the pair is undertaking the walk to show the “deeper underbelly of the homeless community,” which includes not only sorrow, but joy.
“These kids are a family, and people don’t realize that,” she explained. “This si the first time they’ve found someone whoa ccepts and loves and bonds with them. I want to show that duality.”
Noble added that she can sympathize with homeless queer youth, because she was homeless herself at several times during her 20s. She wants to raise attention, she added, to the reason that many gay and transgender youth are out on the streets: because the streets are safer in many ways than their homes/
“I would have much rather have had a healthy home where I could be reflected in that home,” she said. “But because there wasn’t that option it was safer for me to be on the street with all the trauma that is incorporated into that. That’s a really important message to be saying.”
On their trip, Noble and Hardman plan to upload photos, video footage of their journey to their interactive Web site, which also contains a Google map showing their route. The two plan to blog on their journey and to update their Twitter account — a service which allows for brief, spur-of-the-moment blog posts — regularly.
After returning from their walk, Noble and Hardman plan on producing public service announcements about homeless youth. This project will be notable, said Noble, because the announcements will be put together by local queer youth (using footage from the walk) to empower homeless queer youth.
“It is our intention to unify LGBTQ youth through artistic expression, and to teach them how to become mutual mentors in a process of self-awareness and collective healing,” said Noble. “It’s an opportunity for empowered youth in the LGBTQ community to [help] at risk youth, whether that’s creating an event or a PSA that will help … build a bridge between at risk and empowered youth.”
Ultimately, the two hope that their work can help put Salt Lake City on the map in a more “positive light” than it has been in the past few months, thanks to the anti-gay rhetoric of Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, and the failure of several legislative bills that would have extended more protections to gay and transgender Utahns.
“It’s a hot zone right now and we want to use that hot zone to do something positive,” said Noble.
As Noble and Hardman prepare for their six month journey, they are currently accepting donations of items including wool socks, camping supplies, iodine drops and nonperishable, non-canned food items such as jerky or dehydrated food. For more information about donating items, contact Chloe Noble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The walk’s Web site is pridewalk2009.com.