Out In The Open draws attention to homeless youth


Lou Foglia

Out in the Open will shine a light on homeless youth in Chicago who usually go unnoticed.


Nearly 20 organizations are coming together in the fight against youth homelessness. The city of Chicago has more than 20,000 homeless young people, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. 

To raise awareness of this population, Pride Action Tank, the Windy City Times, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and other sponsors are collaborating to host the Out in the Open Sleep-Out event from 6 p.m. Nov. 20 to 8 a.m. the next morning at Cricket Hill on Montrose Avenue, east of Lake Shore Drive.

“It’s really about people building [a] community throughout the night,” Kim L. Hunt, executive director of Pride Action Tank said. 

This is the first year of the event, and visitors can expect live entertainment, speakers and speeches from  homeless youth, Hunt said.  

“We are concerned about all youth but want to especially highlight the youth who identify as LGBTQ who are an estimated 40 percent of the homeless youth nationwide,” Hunt said. 

Participants are encouraged to bring heavy jackets, sleeping bags and tents to the event, which was organized by 19 nonprofits, including the Center on Halsted, Chicago Youth Storage Initiative and Teen Living Programs. The funds raised will go toward each organization’s efforts to provide resources for homeless youth.

“It will be a great advocacy event—there are a lot of community partners engaged from nonprofits to media outlets,” said Peter Johnson, director of public relations at the Center on Halsted. “This is really an issue people want to rally behind and want to know how they can support.”

The city addressed youth homelessness in 2010 by creating a Homeless Youth Task Force that deals with the issue of shelter and educational needs, said Anne Bowhay, director of Foundation Relations & Media for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

“More than 90 percent of the coalition’s 350 yearly clients are homeless students or youth with civil legal needs,” Bowhay said in a Nov. 10 emailed statement. 

Frank Chestnut has worked in the nonprofit sector for three years and will participate in the event, which requires a $75 advance registration  or $85 at the door. 

“[I want to] put my money where my mouth is, to help the social service agencies who are participating to expand their services to help youth who are experiencing homelessness,” Chestnut said.

Hunt said park district rules state that lights have to be out by 11 p.m. and food will be provided by Fight2Feed, a local nonprofit organization attempting to end hunger. As of Nov. 9, 102 people  were registered for the event, according to Hunt.

“We want to put ourselves out of [business] when it comes to the sleep-out. We want to come to the point where we never have to do this again,” Hunt said.