H.O.O.D. House provides shelter for young women
Gyrls in the H.O.O.D. Foundation has found a way to provide shelter to young women and to do their part when it comes to youth homelessness. The organization has identified to two young women who will move into H.O.O.D. House unit.
Gyrls in the H.O.O.D. (Healthy Optimistic Outstanding Determined) Foundation was founded by Chez Smith in 2016 with the mission to increase positive reproductive health outcomes of young girls and adolescents. The mission is also to create a positive narrative for teenage girls who live in zip codes, which often have negative stereotypes placed on them.
With the work Gyrls in the H.O.O.D. Foundation does, Smith found that a lot of the young women they encountered did not have stable housing. It impacted the way the organization delivers its services. Those young women couldn’t focus because their basic need – housing – was not being met.
H.O.O.D House was an idea Smith had throughout the years. Recently with COVID-19, Shelters had to reduce their capacity, which left some young women without a place to stay. Those young women who experience homelessness are still able to hold jobs and go to school despite not having a place to go at night.
Smith applied for funding from the Chicago Foundation for Women and reached out to some of her contacts. A contact had a unit in a building they recently purchased. Gyrls in the H.O.O.D. Foundation was able to secure the unit and secure funding for the first year.
“I wanted to work with girls who were actively employed or looking for employment, who were trying to make a better life for themselves and just needed a chance, a launching pad,” Smith said.
Smith put out a call for applications and reached out to the girls that she had worked with in the past. The process was hard because Smith could only do so much, and the need was so great. The organization received 25 applications. For those not chosen, Smith still wanted to be able to provide referral services to those in need.
Smith is happy with the two young women that were chosen. The two young women, ages 18-21, will live in the furnished unit for one year rent free. They will have access to wraparound support from community partners, which includes mental health services and financial literacy classes.
The goal is to purchase a building to house young women and provide resources and services to them. Smith realizes this segment of the population really needs help.
“There are a lot of young girls out here. There are so many negative outcomes that can happen, whether young people start participating in survival sex and or sex trafficking. Here’s another area that I think society here in Chicago, we need to start looking at, having more compassion for and seeing how we all can help,” Smith said.
Felicia Davis, President and CEO of Chicago Foundation for Women President, said the organization is proud to support the efforts of Gyrls in the H.O.O.D. Foundation, and other organizations like it -- community-led and grassroots.
“Housing insecurity affects many people in our communities, but especially young people. H.O.O.D. House is an opportunity for girls experiencing housing insecurity to receive health information, counseling, and other supports,” Davis said.
For more information on Gyrls in the H.O.O.D. Foundation, visit http://gyrlsinhood.com.
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