Chicago nonprofits are helping homeless LGBTQ youth rejoin society

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In healthcare business news, a handful of nonprofits are trying to reduce Chicago’s population of homeless LGBTQ young by providing them with housing and mental health services. Improving these individuals’ health could help the state save money on incarcerations and HIV treatments.

One in ten young adults ages 18-25 experience some form of homelessness, and LGBTQ youth have the greatest risk. These are the conclusions of a recent study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

There are a multitude of reasons why these individuals end up on the streets or couchsurfing. In many cases, teens are expelled from home by their own families who don’t agree with their sexual orientation.

The anxiety of not having a roof over their head coupled with the stigma of coming out sets these young adults on a path of mental illness and poverty.

Nonprofits such as Teen Living Programs and Center on Halsted are trying to help them rejoin society. The organizations offer housing and support services from job training to mental and holistic health care, counseling and life skills development programs.

By helping homeless teens, these organizations are also bringing money to the local budget. LGBT teens without a home are at greater risk for contracting HIV and STD, developing a drug addiction and incarceration. In Illinois,  the average cost per inmate is over $33,000 per year and every new case of HIV costs over $400,000 in lifetime medical care.

Back on their feet and healthy, homeless youth can get jobs, become taxpayers and stay out of trouble. “We know that if we stop youth homelessness early, this prevents deeper homelessness and reduces public costs in the future. With new evidence in hand, Congress can support action,” said Matthew Morton, PhD, a research fellow at Chapin Hall who oversaw the study.

Illinois is working on increasing access to mental health services. As a result, it was the only state to receive an A rating for for complying with the Federal Parity Law, which stipulates that mental health and substance use disorders be treated like other illnesses.

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