In 2009, a handful of volunteers saw a need on the streets of Lakeview to start the Chicago chapter of StandUp for Kids by making sandwiches in a Lakeview church basement. Our volunteers walked the streets of West Lakeview in search of hungry homeless teens, distributing the sandwiches as contact was made. Because our volunteers all wore purple, word of the "purple people" spread quickly among Chicago's homeless youth. The distribution of sandwiches continued as StandUp for Kids Chicago's primary activity for multiple years. Over this time, the volunteers raised funds, relying mostly on the generosity of family and friends for donations. The end result was the opening of the drop-in center in 2012. Since opening of the drop-in center we have only continued to grow the amount of teens we serve on a weekly basis, moving from two drop-in evenings per week to our current three.
Our drop-in center located in the Lakeview neighborhood of the city, just blocks from Wrigley Field, is almost 100% staffed by volunteers. The center is open on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30-9:00 p.m., filling a gap in services available to Chicago’s homeless youth.
On these nights the center services youth between the ages of 14-26 years old, providing Chicago’s homeless youth with a safe space to relax and socialize, a hot meal and access to our closet to obtain much needed clothing and necessities. During this time, our teens also have access to mentoring, support, health education, financial guidance through CapitalOne, legal advice via Chicago Coalition on the Homeless, and various other services to help them break out of the cycle of homelessness.
Currently we are re-launching our Street Outreach Team for January 2019. During these evenings, a group of volunteers will visit locations on the streets of Lakeview where homeless youth are known to congregate. Our goals are to provide a bagged lunch, necessities, and hope, while guiding youth to deeper services at our drop-in center and beyond. Please contact us at [email protected] if you have interest in joining our Street Outreach Team.
In 2019 we will be celebrating a decade of working with homeless teens in Lakeview. Our current goals are to expand our nightly programming, train and grow two street outreach teams, and deepen our funding base and community connections. Please come find us in Lakeview and join our important and happy work giving teens in dire circumstances hope and opportunity.