Thank you Tempeste for having me over! I wanted to talk a little bit about homelessness today and the Project Fierce Charity Anthology, in which I’m very happy to say my story SAMMY is part of.
Less Than Three Press has done a few charity works in the past, mostly for relief efforts for natural disasters. It’s something they’ve always wanted to pursue further, but with more emphasis on the LGBTQ community, so when they were asked by one of the participating authors if they’d be willing to back an anthology for Project Fierce, it seemed like the perfect starting point to making a concerted effort in that direction.
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
Content: Contains no explicit content.
Release: July 16th, 2014
Buy link: Less Than Three Press: http://www.lessthanthreepress.com/books/index.php?main_page=product_bookx_info&cPath=115&products_id=632
THE AVERAGE AGE OF A CHILD EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS IN CHICAGO IS 9 YEARS OLD
Homelessness has devastating effects on children. Children that lack stable housing experience chronic stress and trauma from frequent moves, inconsistent relationships, and from witnessing domestic violence. The stress and trauma is physically, emotionally and cognitively damaging to them.
According to The National Center on Family Homelessness’ 2010 America’s Youngest Outcast Report, children experiencing homelessness:
97% move up to three times within one year
Have experienced abuse and neglect along with the stresses associated with the loss of their home, safety and sense of security
Go hungry at twice the rate of other children
Have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems, such as anxiety, depression, sleep problems and aggression
40% attend two different schools in a year and 28% attend three or more different schools
Have four times more likely to have delayed development and twice as likely to have learning disabilities
Are 16% less proficient at reading and math than their peers
One-third repeat a grade
Have little or no positive interaction with adults
OVER 2000 YOUTH NEED TO FIND A SAFE PLACE TO SLEEP ON ANY GIVEN NIGHT IN CHICAGO
Chicago Public Schools identified 2,512 unaccompanied youth attending their schools in 2012-13, teens who were homeless and living without parent or guardian. There are only 360 youth beds in Chicago.
Homeless youth face daily challenges while living on their own. They need to secure food and shelter, find a job or return to school. The choices many make in order to survive are often not good for them and can affect their adult life.
Consequences of youth experiencing homelessness:
32% have attempted suicide
Victims of rape and assault at 2 to 3 times higher the rate than their stably housed peers
More than one-third of homeless youth engage in survival sex (when sex is exchanged for money, shelter, food or other basic needs)
Only one in four graduate from high school
Greater risk of suffering from chronic health disorders like asthma and diabetes
More likely to suffer from anxiety disorders, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder
Project Fierce Chicago is a grassroots group of youth advocates and community members working to create housing for homeless LGBTQ youth in Chicago.
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?
John tossed his apron in the hamper then slipped out the back of the shelter into the dark alley and hurried around to the brightly lit street in front. Couples were enjoying the last of the day’s warmth on the waterfront and he envied them as he headed toward his apartment complex. His pulse sped up as he neared the Morrison Bridge. Though it was after nine, traffic was still heavy on the bridge and also along Naito Parkway.
Passing under the bridge, he glanced down the bike path running alongside it, searching for Sammy. His heart leaped to his throat on seeing the familiar figure huddled on the grass, arms wrapped around his knees, looking alone and dejected. John ached to go to him, but would Sam want to talk to him? They weren’t really friends. John paid for his company.
A soft sob floated on the night air and plunged straight into John’s heart. He hurried over to Sam, then stood biting his lips, not sure what to say.
“What do you want?” Sammy’s voice sounded tired, rough with tears.
“Do you need help? Can I do anything?”
Sam raised his head, blue eyes shimmering at him through wet lashes. Recognition sparked in the beautiful depths, then they widened. “You.” Sam struggled to his feet, hugging his bare arms across his chest against the chill creeping up from the river. “Sorry, I have to cancel on you. I’m closed for the night. Try again tomorrow.”
He brushed past John and started down the bike path. John’s heart thumped painfully. “Sam?”
The young man stopped and swiveled abruptly. The lamplight caught his expression, a hint of fear, anger; the light clearly showing a cut lip and the dark swelling of a bruise on his ivory cheek. John clamped his lips shut on a murmur of pity, noting he held his left arm as if it hurt.
Helplessness swept through John. “Let me help you. I can make you a cup of coffee at least. And dinner, if you’re interested. I make great spaghetti.”
Doubt crossed Sam’s pretty face and the end of his pink tongue nudged the cut on his lip, twisting John’s heart. Impulsively, he touched Sam’s arm. “Did someone hurt you?”
Sam stared at his hand, not answering. John was grateful he didn’t yank his arm away. Finally Sam nodded.
Anger flashed through John, but he didn’t want to scare Sam off with questions. “Come home with me,” he urged softly. “I won’t ask anything of you. I want to help and… I could use the company tonight.”
Blue eyes glanced upwards, vulnerable. But then Sam blinked and mischief curled his lips. John winced at his false bravado. “Whatever you say, hon.” Sam hooked their arms and started along the wide path following the riverfront. After only a few steps in the chill evening air, John shrugged out of his coat and put it around Sam’s shoulders. Sam looked amused but pulled the coat tighter around his thin cotton shirt. “Thanks.”
John’s heart pattered. He liked Sam’s arm linked with his. A few people gave them curious glances, but for the most part, they were ignored. He wished the circumstances were better, that maybe Sam was his boyfriend and they were walking home from the movies. They reached his street and his pulse quickened when he led Sam to his apartment.