NEW RESEARCH FINDINGS LEAD TO the ‘Street Youth Rise Up’ Campaign: To change the way Chicago sees and treats its homeless, home-free and street based youth who do what they have to do to survive.

Because Young Women’s Empowerment Project’s [YWEP] new research- called The Bad Encounter Line [BEL]– shows that girls and transgender girls and all street based young people in Chicago are being denied help from systems set up to serve our needs: We are coming together on Friday, Sept 30th in the Lakeview (Boystown Area) at 3:30PM on the corner of Belmont and Broadway to march as a peaceful action. This demonstration is to alert others that we are tired of being criminalized for our survival in this city. The march will lead into a Speak out at Alternatives Inc. where we will have many youth come to share their talents and voices. We demand accountability for the criminalization of our survival, and require the basic necessities that helping systems are not providing our community.

New Research: BAD ENCOUNTER LINE FINDINGS: The BEL is a way to report bad experiences street based youth have had with institutions and tracks the neighborhood, gender and time of day so YWEP can learn more about how we are being denied help. Since 2009, 146 Bad Encounters have been filed over the computer, via phone, text and through filling out a paper form. Of these 146 encounters, 20% (the largest percentage) was in the Lakeview area with Police & Health Care as the most likely institutions found to deny help or cause violence to youth involved in the sex trade and street economy.

A full report will be released during the march and speak out and shows details information and graphs.

WHO WE ARE: YWEP HISTORY: The Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP) is a member based social justice organizing project that is led by and for young people of color who have current or former experience in the sex trade street economies. Our mission is to offer safe, respectful, free-of-judgment spaces for girls and young women in the sex trade to recognize their goals, dreams and desires. YWEP is Chicago based project that was founded in 2002 by a radical feminist and harm reduction based collective of women and girls involved in the sex trade and our allies. We were created by women and girls who believe that any girl can be empowered and that all girls are priceless, creative, and smart and can be leaders in their communities.

WHY WE ARE DOING THIS: HISTORY, RESEARCH & HISTORY ABOUT THE BAD ENCOUNTER LINE: In 2009, YWEP completed a youth led research study on ways girls and transgender girls in the sex trade & street economy are resistant and resilient to violence. In this research we looked at two categories of violence, individual and institutional. Although both categories had surprising results, we were most surprised at the amount of girls and transgender girls facing violence from institutions- like police, hospitals, social services and even Department Children and Family Service.

We wanted to tackle this problem from a community organizing approach from this idea the Bad Encounter Line (BEL) was born. The BEL is a way to report bad experiences you have had with institutions and tracks the neighborhood, gender and time of day so YWEP can learn more about how we are being harmed.

We also started a task force called “Street Youth in Motion” who organized this march and wrote a Street Youth Bill of Rights (attached) that we want all non-profits to sign to make them accountable to us and can’t get away with denying us help!

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