Posted by gaylistbookreviews
We are excited to welcome the amazingly talented C.J. Anthony to our site today. C.J. is sharing an excerpt from her story in the Project Fierce Anthology, and information about the charity the anthology is named for and the essential work that they do.
“Welcome to the Sunshine Center. I’m Casey.”
“Um … I’m Connor Belmont. From—”
The man’s eyes lit up and he pointed a finger toward Connor. “Yes! From Loyola
Academy. Welcome, my man!” He strode across the room and held out his hand.
Connor grasped it and his whole arm was jostled heartily. Casey Jackson had glasses and
dreadlocks just past his chin. He wore a dark green, button-down shirt and khakis, and
he was about medium-build with a strong grip and a wide smile. Casey’s greeting eased
Connor’s butterflies and he let out a breath and smiled back at Casey.
“I was thrilled to get Mr. Cochran’s call. We’re always looking for as much help as we
can get, so we’re really glad to have you on board. Let me give you a tour of the place to
start off.” He rested one hand on Connor’s shoulder briefly as he gestured forward with
The room they were currently in was a lounge room, a hangout place for the kids to be
comfortable and spend time together. The doorway that Casey had entered through led to
the back part of the house. On the left side of the hallway was a small receptionist office
that was the first place kids came when they entered the house looking for help. Casey’s
office was behind this room, with the door open.
“Lily or Mary are usually always here manning the desk. Lily is a full-time employee and
Mary is a volunteer. Mama Mary, we call her. She would mother all of these kids and
take them home with her if she could. Fantastic woman. Anyway, my office is back there.
I have an open-door policy for anyone in the house, be it employees, volunteers, or the
kids. Especially the kids, after all, that’s who we’re here for. And that includes you, now.
Please come bother me at any time you need anything. The only time that door is closed
is when I’m dealing with a situation that calls for privacy or discretion. If you come
in and see the door closed, only disturb me if the place is burning down or someone’s
dying.” He smiled, but the look in his eyes was serious.
Across the hall was another large room with chairs and sofas and a TV. This room was
another gathering room, used for group meetings and other events. When not in use, the
kids could hang out, watch TV, do whatever.
At the back of the house was a large kitchen with extra-large capacity appliances. Two
long folding tables with a mish-mash of non-matching chairs around each sat in the
middle of the room.
“We were so lucky to finally be able to get this house about a year and a half ago. The
whole first-floor was renovated first into what you see today. We’re thrilled that we can
now provide fresh food and hot meals to the kids. And we have a small laundry room
through that door, so the kids can come and do their laundry. When you live on the
streets, being able to put on a clean shirt is important—it makes you feel human again.”
Casey continued up a back stairway. “We have a small bathroom and shower up here, but
that is all that’s finished on this floor right now.” The top of the stairs opened to a ripped
apart second floor. There was a clear space where part of a wall had been knocked down
to make two rooms into one. Two smaller rooms were down the hall. There were drop
cloths and tools scattered everywhere.
“The second floor is the second phase of our renovation plan. As you can see, it has been
slow going. We were waiting on a grant to come through and it took a while, but we
finally got it last month. The goal is to have beds and rooms on this floor to shelter kids
short-term, whether for an occasional night or for longer as they try to get back on their
“How many kids come here?” Connor finally asked.
“Well,” Casey, answered, “on any given day, there can be as few as 3 -5 hanging out
here and as many as 10-20. Being as small as we are, we mostly service our surrounding
neighborhood, but we would certainly never turn anyone away, no matter where they’re
from and no matter how many kids are here at the time. We always help when we can.
We started in a small storefront a few streets over, just two rooms. That’s why we were so
excited to get this house—to be able to grow and have more ways to help our kids.”
Connor was floored. Casey spoke as if 10-20 kids were “small,” but to Connor, that
sounded like a huge number. He couldn’t believe there were that many kids who didn’t
have a home or a place to sleep.
“I wish we didn’t have to be here at all, but unfortunately, there are thousands of LGBT
youth on our streets every day with no place to stay.”
Thousands. Connor shook his head, uncomprehending of that large number.
Hi, I’m C. J. Anthony and I want to thank Gay List Book Reviews for letting me visit today. I have a very important topic to talk about today — The issue of homeless LGBT youth.
The excerpt above is from a story I wrote for the Project Fierce Anthology called Pretty Boy and Frankie. Pretty Boy is the nickname of Connor, and Frankie is one of the homeless youth Connor meets at the Sunshine Center. As part of his requirements to graduate from his high school, Connor must spend some time volunteering for a charitable organization. He is given the Sunshine Center, a local organization on the west side of Chicago that is working hard to help the homeless LGBT youth in its neighborhood.
The Sunshine Center (and its house and its practices) is fictional, but Project Fierce is not. Project Fierce is a real organization in Chicago that is fighting to do the same thing the Sunshine Center is doing. They are working to raise money to purchase property to convert into transitional housing for LGBTQ-identified young adults.
The Project Fierce Anthology is an anthology from Less Than Three Press of 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.
Initially dreamed up by Piper Vaughn as a way to raise money for Project Fierce, Less Than Three Press took the reigns of the project over and organized it all into a wonderful anthology. The stories are wide-ranging—from contemporary to fantasy, just to name a couple—but all focus on young LGBT characters who find that home and family are not always where you expect to find them.
The best part is that all of the proceeds from the sale of this anthology, minus vendor fees, will be going to Project Fierce over the next two years (the term of the contract with LT3). The book goes live tonight, the 15th, but for a few more hours you can still preorder the book at a discounted price. Buy links are listed below, along with links to more information about the Project Fierce organization. I’ve also pasted some information and incredibly eye-opening statistics from Project Fierce’s website about homelessness in Chicago.
Everyone deserves a home.
LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in Chicago
Youth homelessness is a widespread issue in the U.S., and Illinois is no exception. There
are an estimated 25,000 youth in Illinois who experience homelessness in the course
of a year, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) and the Illinois
Department of Human Services. Studies have found that youth who identify as LGBTQ
are disproportionately represented in homeless youth populations. Approximately five
percent of youth in the United States identify as LGBTQ, but 32% – 40% of homeless
youth identify as LGBTQ (Gay & Lesbian Task Force, 2007). Researchers have
attributed this overrepresentation to factors such as family rejection, employment
discrimination, and mental health issues caused by stigmatization and discrimination
(Sadowski et al, 2009).
Youth in Chicago represent a large portion of Illinois’ homeless population. There are
15,000 youth who experience homelessness during the year in Chicago. Of those youth,
approximately 3,000 are LGBTQ (Gay & Lesbian Task Force, 2007). While there is a
documented need for housing for youth, there are only a total of 119 beds (temporary,
transitional and permanent) in the city of Chicago, and 24 interim beds for minors
(Lakeview Action Coalition, 2011). Chicago Coalition for the Homeless reports that
42 percent of youth seeking shelter from state-funded programs for homeless youth
were turned away in 2000 because of a lack of resources (Chicago Coalition for the
LGBTQ youth, particularly transgender youth, face additional challenges in securing
shelter, because most facilities do not recognize transgender identity, and require that
youth identify with their biological sex to obtain housing. This deters some youth from
utilizing the few shelters that exist, and youth often report feeling uncomfortable and
unsafe in facilities that are not gender-affirming (Sadowski et al, 2009).
Homeless youth face myriad challenges on the streets each day, including threats to
physical health and safety, lack of income for sufficient food and hygiene needs, police
harassment and violence, lack of access to health care and other services, lack of
information and treatment of substance-dependence, and lack of access to mental health
care and social support.
In addition to the general challenges that face homeless youth, LGBTQ youth often face
additional barriers. These include lack of emergency housing that is gender-affirming
and safe for transgender youth, discrimination in employment and housing based on
sexual orientation or gender expression, isolation from families and communities that
reject their sexual and/or gender identity, and homophobic and transphobic violence and
harassment (Lakeview Action Coalition, 2011). Transitioning to independence is also
particularly difficult for LGBTQ youth, as they often face discrimination in employment
and housing, and often do not have the social support in place that heterosexual youth
have (Diaz et al, 2001).
Even though these youth face many obstacles, they also have incredible resilience
and resourcefulness. PFC aims to build on the strengths that youth have necessarily
developed for survival, and utilize them in learning to live independently in stable
Here’s how you can help:
*To purchase the anthology at a 15% preorder discount (for today
only) from Less Than Three Press
*To purchase at ARE
Posted in Guest Blog Posts
Tags: Acceptance, anthology, Charity, Chicago, Choices, Coming Out, Compassion, Grief, Guest Post, Healing, Homeless Youth, Homophobia, Hope, Humanity, Less Than Three Press, LGBTQ Youth, Love, Making a New Life, Making Your Own Family, Project Fierce, Responsibility, Second Chances, Short Stories, Social Issues