Vida/SIDA Opens Space for LGBTQ Homeless Youth


José López speaks at the grand opening of El Rescate

Last Saturday, in the presence elected officials, community leaders, and Humboldt Park residents, Vida/SIDA officially opened the doors of El Rescate, an assisted living space for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) youth, bringing a much needed service to the predominately Puerto Rican and Latino neighborhood.

“This is about hope. It’s about dignity. it’s about saving lives,” said Cook County Commissioner Edwin Reyes during the ribbon cutting ceremony.

According to the Lakeview Action Coalition, in Chicago alone approximately 15,000 youth (between 13 and 21) will experience homelessness at sometime throughout the year. Many of them living on the streets because of abuse by a parent or family member. Those with no place to go often face high rates of physical or sexual assault and some even become engaged in sex work and other forms of underground labor.

However, what is most startling is that despite comprising only four percent of the general population according to recent statistics released by the Williams Institute, LGBTQ youth are overrepresented among all homeless youth.

“Not one child should be homeless. Nonetheless, of the homeless youth, 40 percent of them self-identify as LGBT,” says Roberto Sanabria, member of the Board of Directors for the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. “According to a recent study, about 26 percent of young people who have come out to their parents were thrown out of their homes.”.

El Rescate (located on the fourth floor of the Vida/SIDA building) is the Midwest’s first Latino homeless LGBTQ youth center. El Rescate’s brightly painted space will house eight to ten homeless LGBTQ youth between the ages of 18 and 21. Additionally, while housed at el Rescate, youth will be encouraged to participate in all the programs available to them at Vida/SIDA or through other projects of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, including HIV prevention, employment and education programs.

While there are other homeless youth centers throughout the city of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, el Rescate is unique in the sense that it provides a much needed service in a culturally competent way.

“We as a community have taken on the issue of homelessness,” says Juan Calderón, director of Vida/SIDA. “It demonstrates a continued success to provide services to the most in need.”

Additionally, while house at El Rescate, youth will have the agency to create their own atmosphere, being able to choose rooms and being responsible for their own living space.

Vida/SIDA, founded in 1988, is the HIV/AIDS project of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center specifically serving Latinos in a manner that is culturally competent and affirming. For additional information, visit

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Danny Olvera

The queer femme first-born of Mexican immigrant parents, Danny is no stranger to sticking out. A native Chicagoan, with a complicated relationship with LA and San Antonio, Danny can be found dancing arhymically on the dance floors of a queer Latin@ nightclub near you.

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  • Latinolgbtyouth

    Do you know how El Rescare will operate? If I’m an LGBT youth what are the criteria to get housing here?

    • Karari Kue

      That is a great question. From my understanding, homeless youth who already participate in Vida/SIDA programs will be referred to El Rescate. Because there is limited space, preference will be given to youth who are involved with the HIV prevention programs, the queer women’s program, or trans program, etc. However, that was my understanding of it. You can contact Ricardo Jimenez at Ricardoj{at] or by phone at 773-278-6737 get get additional information.