Editor’s Note: Kasey White appeared in the documentary The Homestretch http://www.homestretchdoc.com/trailer/ which follows three homeless high school kids in the inner city of Chicago through graduation and beyond. The film explores what it takes for youth experiencing homelessness to move forward despite their circumstances. In Kasey’s words, the film is about “breaking the stigmatism put upon homelessness and instead focuses on the success stories.”
Kasey is an intern with the Pride Action Tank, a newly formed Chicago organization working collaboratively with other organizations to support housing, health, safety, financial security, youth and aging issues in the LGBTQ community. She serves as a juror for the Tiny Homes Competition, http://www.tinyhomeschicago.org/, a nationwide competition where teams across the country are invited to submit design ideas for a community of tiny homes with the goal of creating an affordable, safe, stable housing community for youth experiencing homelessness.
Kasey has agreed to be a contributor for ProudYouth. We are honored to share her voice.
The following is the speech Kasey delivered recently during the launch of the Pride Action Tank.
Two years ago, I could never imagine myself where I am today. I couldn’t see myself as a leader, or an advocate for anything.
I thought I would be only seen as a youth who was in a “homeless situation.” People only seeing the situation and not the person. A stigma that a lot of youth and young adults have set on them.
Breaking a stigma and/or a stereotypical view about a group of people is hard. It takes a really big person to step up and speak out about things that aren’t right. I may not be big in size, but I am one of those big people.
For almost two years now, I have traveled to many places. In my travels, I have been amazed at how many people approach me after I have spoken about the issue to tell me I have changed their view on homeless youth.
I don’t use big fancy words. I only use the statistics that I know, but most of the time I’m simply speaking from experience. To me, that’s the best way to address an issue of this caliber. I have spoken with groups of youth ranging from 7th graders to high school. In every single session there were at least five people who said to me, “Thank you for making me feel that I am not alone”.
Being an advocate was never something that had crossed my mind, but I have become one without realizing I was. No matter what I am doing, I make time to advocate for homeless youth, especially for those in the LGBTQ community considering we are a high percentage of the youth on the streets.
I’ve not only spoken on behalf of youth to make a change, I have also opened my home to several individuals now that I’ve been in my own apartment. I haven’t turned down an opportunity to do something on behalf of youth.
That’s why when I was asked me to be an intern on The Pride Action Tank project, I couldn’t say no. The change this organization can make is a change I am so glad to be apart of. Learning the ins and outs of what it takes to get a project like this one off the ground are experiences I need to have. I can take them with me and create another change later on down the road.
One of the projects I am very excited about is being a consultant on the upcoming Tiny Home Design Competition and Summit. I will be a judge on the panel that will select the winning entry. Tiny Homes can be one among many solutions we need to provide housing for youth and other people experiencing homelessness. I look forward to working on this competition, and much more to help our community.