I’d like to extend a warm welcome to my friend and fellow author Dianne Hartsock who is contributing to an anthology to benefit the Project Fierce Chicago Charity Anthology. Please take a moment to check out her post and consider purchasing this anthology.
Hi Mia and everyone! Thanks so much for having me over. Today, I’d like to talk a little about homelessness. Not an easy topic for anyone, but there are many ways in which we can help, and I’m very happy to say that my story SAMMY has been chosen to be in the Project Fierce Chicago Charity Anthology.
Nobody deserves to be without a home. In collaboration with several authors, Less Than Three Press offers up an anthology of stories about young people who find that home and family are not always where you expect to find them.
All proceeds from this charity anthology will be donated to Project Fierce Chicago.
Project Fierce Chicago’s mission is to reduce LGBTQ youth homelessness in Chicago by providing affirming, no-cost transitional housing and comprehensive support services to homeless LGBTQ young adults. PFC also aims to encourage community-building and civic engagement through cooperative living and youth leadership development.
LT3’s Project Fierce Chicago charity anthology includes 20 short stories from Aeris, Vicktor Alexander, Talya Andor, C.J. Anthony, Blaine D. Arden, Kayla Bain-Vrba, Sophie Bonaste, Kenzie Cade, Jana Denardo, Alessandra Ebulu, Dianne Hartsock, Leta Hutchins, Caitlin Ricci, Lor Rose, B. Snow, Rin Sparrow, Andrea Speed, Piper Vaughn, Layla M. Wier, and Xara X. Xanakas
Pairings: M/M, F/F, genderqueer
Content: Contains no explicit content.
Buy link: Less Than Three Press: http://www.lessthanthreepress.com/books/index.php?main_page=product_bookx_info&cPath=115&products_id=632
It’s estimated that Chicago has up to 3,000 homeless youths in need of shelter on any given night with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people making up as much as 40 percent of the national homeless population (Chicago Coalition for the Homeless). But there are just 209 youth shelter beds available citywide and young homeless people are left to navigate for themselves.
Dressed in black baggy jeans, a gray tank top and a Harley Davidson cap skewed backward, Juan Gallaher stood under a cool late-fall drizzle devouring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the Night Ministry’s homeless-youth-outreach van at Belmont Avenue and Halsted Street.
“I can’t let the life I’ve got kill me before I get the life I want,” Mr. Gallaher said.
It was 8:30 p.m., and Mr. Gallaher was getting his first meal of the day. But he has gone so long and so often without food that hunger is now a faint feeling, he said, though he knows he needs to eat.
Three weeks earlier, he had turned 21. While that is a happy milestone for most young people, for Mr. Gallaher — a ward of the state since 2006 — it meant he was no longer eligible for services from the Illinois child welfare system. As a result, he lost his apartment and his subsidies.
“I’ve learned in my life that nothing is stable,” Mr. Gallaher said. So he focuses on the fundamentals: getting a free dinner and finding a place to sleep — maybe under a bridge, in an abandoned house or crowded with other homeless youths on the floor of a friend’s small apartment.
Mr. Gallaher also is a transgender person, and a former ward of the state — both of which, studies show, make him far more likely to experience homelessness.
Homeless youths are in need of nurturing, they are easy targets for crime and abuse. And beyond basic housing, there is a need for services that can help them obtain an education and job skills.
MERIBAH KNIGHT The New York Times
Project Fierce Chicago is a grassroots group of youth advocates and community members working to create housing for homeless LGBTQ youth in Chicago.
One year ago, Project Fierce Chicago publicly launched. Since then, they’ve further established their infrastructure, grown their collective, built relationships with other youth organizations and raised over 1/3 of their operating budget.
They have their sights set on foreclosed properties in Austin, South Shore & Garfield Park, and hope to purchase their home by Fall of this year, and begin housing young people by winter.
Everyone deserves a safe and stable home!
Sammy: My story in the Project Fierce Anthology
At fifteen, Sam inadvertently comes out to his parents, but instead of the support he hopes for, they send him to live with his uncle. Unfortunately, the man is even less tolerant of his uniqueness. Rather than change to please his family, feeling unwanted and misunderstood, he runs away to find a better life.
But the crowded city isn’t kind to a young man with no home and no prospects of work. When this story opens, Sam has been on the streets for several years when one of his ‘regulars’ begins to take more than a business interest in him. For the first time Sammy dreams of more than a bleak lonely future, but does he dare hope that someone like him could find their happily ever after?
“How did you—” John broke off, blushing furiously. “Forget it.”
“Don’t worry about it. Everyone asks, sooner or later.” Sam took another bite of the delicious spaghetti, deciding how much he wanted to tell John. It seemed odd. Tad was the only person he confided in, but he felt like he could trust John as well. John had never hurt him or tried to cheat him.
“My parents found out I was gay and threw me out of the house.” Sam speared a meatball and nibbled on it. John’s shocked breath brought an unexpected lump to his throat. “Who’d have guessed, huh? I was fifteen, excited to see a boy at school, singing at the top of my voice when Mom walked into my bedroom. She teased me about the girl I was getting all pretty for. I just blurted it out.”
John touched his arm, protective, giving him the courage to continue. “You wouldn’t believe the look of revulsion she gave me. As if I’d told her I murdered babies. She called Dad and in an hour they had me bundled off to Uncle Gary’s with a suite case in my hand and Dad’s handprint on my face. Said they couldn’t bear to look at me.”
Sam’s throat had grown painful with emotion and he swallowed, tried to calm the mad beating of his heart. John lightly stroked Sam’s arm as if to comfort him. “Then how did—”
“I end up on the streets? Uncle Gary said either the dresses had to go or I did. I left, came up here with a couple of friends. They went back home as soon as the rain started, but I had nowhere to go. It was a little rough at first, but then I met Tad and the others.”
Sam clamped his lips shut. What was he doing? John couldn’t really care about some queer and all his problems. Must be the wine making him stupid.
John surprised him by leaning over and pressing a kiss to his forehead. “I think I understand, but if you ever want out, the mission has a recovery program that could help you get your own place, find a job…”
Sam shrugged. God, everyone wanted to save him. “I have a job,” he muttered. Yeah, better get to it. He dropped a hand on John’s knee and trailed his fingers up his thigh.
John cleared his throat, his voice sounding strained, “Sammy, what are you doing? This isn’t why I asked you—”
“Why am I here?”
John put his fork down and swiveled to face him. “We’ve been over this. You were hurt tonight and I want to give you a safe place to sleep. The couch folds out into a bed and it isn’t being used. It’s that simple.”
Thank you, Dianne, so much for coming to my blog and offering a guest post to support such a worthy cause. Thank you for sharing an except of your contribution, Sammy.