In 2009, Utahns Chloe Noble and Jill Hartman walked across the United States to raise awareness of the challenges facing homeless youth – over 40 percent of whom identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning or “non-straight.” Their journey took them from Seattle to Washington, D.C., where they participated in and helped organize October’s March for Equality.
Nearly one year later, the foundation the two women created, Operation Shine America, has announced the launch of a new campaign.
Kicked off this August, Creative Minds 2010 is a national campaign offering homeless youth and their allies what Noble calls “a platform to be seen and heard.” It will work in tandem with a number of local organizations such as the Homeless Youth Resource Center, Volunteers of America, Urban Village Cooperative, the Inclusion Center, Community In-Roads Alliance, the Utah Pride Center and the Utah chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. These organizations, said Noble, who is OSA’s founding director, will work together to sponsor community awareness training about homeless youth in which participants will learn how to help these youth and how to work toward solving social problems that lead to youth homelessness.
“This is about extending core family values like acceptance, patience, compassion, generosity, protection and love, beyond ourselves and our personal family unit,” said Noble. “This epidemic [of homelessness facing youth] can not be solved simply by donations, emergency services, or even emergency over night shelters; although all of these things are essential in keeping these children safe and alive long enough for them to enter into recovery. What is needed to end youth homelessness is a complete transformation of our systems of care, a rebuilding of our local communities, and a strong awareness of the trauma that these homeless youth experience on a daily basis.”
During last year’s Homeless Youth Pride Walk, Noble said that she and Hartman interviewed the youth they met about what brought them to the streets. They found, she said, that although the causes were numerous, they all tied back into community-related problems such as familial rejection and a lack of access to services. Overall, Noble said that there are two million homeless youth in the United States. And given that queer youth are disproportionately represented in that number, Noble said that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights were inseparable from the homeless youth epidemic.
“This means that huge causal factors in youth homelessness are homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia,” said Noble. “If we are going to eradicate youth homelessness, we are going to have to come to terms with the negative and oppressive belief systems that teach us to treat LGBTQ citizens with anything less than dignity, respect, love and acceptance. This certainly includes our amazing youth, especially those who are now homeless.”
“This diverse group of homeless youth, whether LGBTQ or heterosexual, has a profound and powerful voice,” agreed OSA director of administration Ginger Phillips. “We want to support them in their progress and give them many creative ways to be seen and heard. Studies show that many homeless LGBTQ youth who receive appropriate guidance, support, protection and resources, eventually become successful members of the community.”
In order to help provide youth with this help, OSA will also participate in a number of events throughout autumn and winter. These include NAMI’s annual walk to raise awareness of mental illness, which will begin at Mobile Ballpark at 9 a.m. on Sept. 18.
In Oct., OSA will take part in Utah Pride Center’s Family Acceptance Regional Conference (Oct. 8–10), which is targeted toward creating safe and affirming family environments for queer youth. Throughout the month Creative Minds 2010 will also host Creative Freak Boutique, a shop selling arts and crafts created by homeless youth and where homeless youth will be able to express themselves through open mic and music.
From Oct. 14 through Nov. 6 Creative Minds 2010 will also be a part of the NAMI Art Project at the Patrick Moore Gallery, 2233 S. 700 East. Homeless youth will also participate in NAMI’s Holiday Boutique from Dec. 3–5 at Pioneer Craft House, 3271 S. 500 East.
For more information about OSA visit operationshineamerica.blogspot.com.