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.
Our drop-in center located in the Lakeview neighborhood of the city, just blocks from Chicago’s lakefront, is almost 100% staffed by volunteers. The center is open on select weekday evenings, filling a gap in services available to Chicago’s homeless and “at risk” street youth.
On these nights the center services youth between the ages of 14-24 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, legal advice, and various other services to help them break out of the cycle of homelessness.
These days we engage street youth and raise awareness with Street Outreach Teams in four Chicago neighborhoods. During these evenings, a group of volunteers will visit locations on the streets where homeless youth are known to congregate. Our intent is to provide bagged meals, necessities, and HOPE, while guiding youth to deeper services at our drop-in center and beyond.