14 Chicago LGBTQ organizations you should know

April 16, 2013

Last month, Project Fierce launched an IndieGogo campaign to raise funds and awareness for its proposed work with the LGBTQ community. The project is now 9 days into its goal of securing the sum needed to make a down payment on a house for LGBTQ youth. Currently, Project Fierce is about halfway to its stated goal of $10,000.

While Project Fierce charges toward the finish line, let's take an opportunity to celebrate their proposed work, as well as the contributions so many are making in the Chicago LGBTQ community. This is a list of 14 Chicago LGBTQ organizations you should know (and/or get involved with). It's by no means meant to be a ranking or a definitive list of any kind, and I apologize in advance if I forgot anyone. It's just a small celebration of our queer community I put together with love.

Note: Quotes are pulled from organizations' mission statements. I figured it was best to let them speak for themselves.

1.  AIDS Foundation of Chicago

2. Affinity Community Services

3. Broadway Youth Center

“The Broadway Youth Center is a program of Howard Brown Health Center and [its] community partners, offering comprehensive services to youth, ages 12-24 including a safe space for young people experiencing homelessness.

“Through its basic needs program, the BYC offers homeless youth a safe place to access basic needs, such as food, hygiene supplies, clothing, laundry, and showers. In addition to drop-in services, youth are also able to access a full range of free services and programs ranging from HIV/STI testing and treatment, acute health care services, GED classes, case management, counseling services and social and support groups.”

How to Support: You can give to BYC via the Howard Brown website. To volunteer, contact Amy Miller at (773) 388-8796 or email AmyM@Howardbrown.org.  

4. Chicago House

“Chicago House provides permanent, community-based housing, supportive services, and prevention outreach to individuals and families struggling with HIV and AIDS. Many come to [Chicago House] with the added burdens of poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, and mental illness, as well as the need for job skills and training.

“[Chicago House’s] innovative programs are designed to meet the unique needs of individuals and families who are often disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS, including many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community as well as minority communities who struggle with health and income disparities.

“Through [CH’s] array of services that include supportive housing, HIV prevention and case management and linkage-to-medical care services, and a groundbreaking employment program, Chicago House provides [its] clients with the tools, resources, and support to advance their lives in wellness, with dignity and hope.”

How to Support: Donate to Chicago House on its website or volunteer.

5. The Civil Rights Agenda

6. The Crib

“The Night Ministry’s overnight youth shelter, The Crib, first opened in January 2011 as a 4-month pilot program funded by the City of Chicago...The Crib has grown substantially in its first two seasons, but continues to be an overnight space for young people ages 18-24 to get a hot meal, sleep, do yoga, dance, rest, and be safe. The space is welcoming to people of all genders and sexual orientations and is open seven nights a week. [The Crib believes] that every person deserves a warm, safe place to rest, and [The Crib does its] best to build community with the 20 young people who come to stay...each night.”

“The Crib is open from 9 p.m. until 9 a.m. each night and can accommodate 20 youth. The Crib is an important addition to Chicago’s efforts to care for youth who are on the streets, because there are only about 230 other shelter beds for youth in Chicago, while an estimated 2,000 young people experience homelessness every night. There are at least two staff members awake and on duty at all times. Staff also provide the youth with links to daytime supportive services.”

How to Support: You can donate to The Crib in the form of one-time, monthly or planned gift donations, or volunteer.

7. Equality Illinois

8. Gender JUST

“Gender JUST formed itself as a place for those marginalized within traditional LGBTQA communities, namely people of color, youth, trans people, immigrants, people living with disabilities, and others who have not felt that mainstream LGBTQA organizations represented their interests.

“At its core, Gender JUST is an issue-based organizing project. Currently, issues in education & of resource equity are central to the work of [Gender JUST], especially as they intersect with issues of racial, economic & gender justice. Since its inception, however, Gender JUST members & leaders have come together in both popular education sessions & in other community venues around issues important to the our community. The following are some of the many issues Gender JUST organizes around: economic and racial justice, reproductive justice, hate crimes, immigration and prisoner solidarity.

“The goals of Gender JUST are to (1) transform LGBTQA communities by abolishing race, class, gender, age, religion and ability hierarchies in service of a multi-dimensional and powerful movement and to (2) promote innovative, community-based solutions to safety, wellness, and resource disparities that are accountable to those most vulnerable to institutional violence and harm.”

How to Support: Get involved with Gender JUST’s work or donate via PayPal.

9. Get Equal

10. Join the Impact

11. Lambda Legal Illinois

“Founded in 1973, Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

“[Lambda’s] legal, education and advocacy work touches nearly every aspect of life for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people living with HIV.  [Lambda Legal categorizes its] work into the following priority areas: fair courts, government misconduct, health care fairness, HIV, Latino outreach, marriage and family, seniors, transgender rights, workplace fairness and youth.

“In Illinois, Lambda Legal is suing on behalf of 16 same-sex couples seeking the Freedom to Marry.”

How to Support: You can donate on the Lambda website, as a monthly or one-time supporter, or volunteer.

12. Project Fierce

“Project Fierce Chicago is a grassroots group of youth service providers, housing advocates and radical social workers. Motivated by the need for additional housing resources available for LGBTQ young folks, [the group] came together and decided that instead of waiting for institutional support from the city or state, Project Fierce will work to address this issue ourselves through a community-driven project.

“[Project Fierce’s] mission is to reduce LGBTQ youth homelessness in Chicago by providing affirming, no-cost transitional housing and support services to LGBTQ young adults. PFC also aims to encourage community-building and leadership development through collaborative living and civic engagement.”

13. Test Positive Aware Network

14. Transformative Justice Law Project

“The Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois (TJLP) is a collective of radical lawyers, social workers, activists, and community organizers who are deeply committed to prison abolition, transformative justice, and gender self-determination.

“[TJLP uses its] legal access and...privilege as people on the outside to further the prison abolition movement and support people on the inside. [TJLP works] in three project areas: legal services; educational material and trainings; and community survival and organizing on the inside.”

How to Support: You can send donations to the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, 4707 N. Broadway Suite 307, Chicago, IL 60640. To donate an item in-kind, such as food, office supplies or volunteer power, contact TJLP at info@tjlp.org or (773) 272-1822.

Are you a part of an organization, non-profit, start-up or project that was not included here? Feel free to plug your work in the comments and tell us how to get involved.

Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can follow Nico on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook.