The Recollection of Successes

          2011 has been quite the year for us (well let’s be real the whole freakin’ movement ;). All this has been in the making from the beginning conversations of YWEP and here we are- over ten years later still in control of our own lives, and echoing our realities for everyone to hear.  

On September 28th 2011 we had the privilege of witnessing history happen & magic happen. As we gathered that Friday at 3pm on Belmont, with all legalities covered and the proper “authorities” had been alerted we set it off. Young people marched to alert our local community that we are tired of being referred to as the problem, and ready to speak out- not just as the victims of these unjust systems, but also as survivors of circumstance!!!

 We stepped off at 3:45PM with our legal advisors (courtesy of Transformative Justice Law Project), lawyers (who came from as far away as New York), and youth from all over this city!! We organized over 70 youth and 15 adult allies to march to change the way Chicago sees and treats its homeless, home-free and street-based youth for doing what they have to do to survive!

Our set up krew and outreach team acted as a mobile rest stops and offered water and a moments rest if needed. Feeling the power of speaking up and speaking out our own lives, we marched nearly 2 miles to have the Boystown and Uptown communities recognize the truth. People all along the March Route jumped in- asking questions, engaging our cause- and the youth had all the answers & spread the word! It was so motivating, moving, and needed.

Once we arrived at Alternatives Inc. we took a few moments out of our exciting and hectic day to reach the masses, by talking live to Volcolo 88.5 radio on the afternoon Overdrive

The day was a humble success and I’d say the most priceless moment was our Speakout. With a few motivating speeches sprinkled in, this was a gift because the stage belonged to the youth that night! We showed our colors, spirits, and realities.

Although this was only the start to a much larger fight –we already had a few more successes – as two more organizations reached out to us to sign on to our Street Youth Bill of Rights….. That night was our proof to our mission – that we are the leaders in our own life.  

Undoubtedly, we couldn’t have done this without the support of our amazingly super supportive adult allies and peace-keepers. But young people were in charge of the entire event- from the peace keeping, to the paperwork, to the set up, any way a youth could get involved and take leadership was open to them.

 They said we couldn’t be organized!!!!!!!


And we will keep doing it, like how our BEL will help us select our target for our Street Youth Rise Up! Campaign and our research will give us the proof and the power to show that our rights to need to be recognized!!!!

2011  is not yet over and there are still so many opportunities for work to be done to further the change we desire. There are more opportunities to see us and get involved- next stop Los Angeles for the New Leadership Network Initiative- a project of the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Project.  

Stay tuned for more updates to come!!!


Our March Was AMAZING! Hear us on the radio

Live interview with C Angel Torre

We Are:

We are sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. We are gay, straight, trans, queer, lovers, friends, and families. We are artists, musicians, students, body piercers, tattoo artists, people pleasers, and street pharmacists. We are Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, undocumented immigrants, indigenous people, and nomads. We are young people, and allies who come from all across this city in the reality of what it takes to survive here. Doing what we need to and criminalized everyday for it.  We are here to hold the city accountable for the lack of help and the discrimination that comes from the places we are supposed to seek help from. We are a member-based social justice organizing task-force that is led by and for young people of color who have current or former experience in the sex trade and street economies. We are here because we are tired, and ready to create change!!!!!!

What We Do:

We are the alternative, we are the resource. We are there when the system is not. We provide food for those who may not be able to access a meal. We safety plan with youth who need support around difficult situations. We help youth who need assistance accessing housing, clean rigs, health alternatives, or just someone to listen to them.  We are here to offer a safe, respectful, free-of-judgment space for young people in the sex trade and street economies to organize around issues that affect their everyday life and to recognize their goals, dreams and desires.


In 2009 we did a massive research study and published the results. Our study’s findings even went to the United Nations! Our campaign is based on the findings from our participatory action research project called Girls do what they have to do to Survive: Illuminating Methods used by Girls in the Sex Trade and Street Economy to Fight Back and Heal. This study was coordinated by our youth staff Jazeera Iman and Naima Paz with adult ally support from Catlin Fullwood. Over 65 members participated in creating, implementing and documenting our research report.

We had 3 main findings:

1. Resilience is a stepping stone to Resistance- this means that the more we take care of ourselves the more we have the power to fight back

2. Denied Help- young people in the sex trade and street economy are being denied help from social services and non profits and even police because they are involved in the sex trade, street economy or are queer or transgender.

3. Institutional violence makes individual violence worse- this means that when some goes for help (lets say because someone is hurting them) and then they are turned down for help (because they are in the sex trade or another reason) this makes the situation and the experiences much worse.

We created our campaign that uses ALL 3 of these findings because we wanted to build our resilience and fight back against institutional violence.

Campaign: Street Youth Rise UP!

Our campaign is to change the way Chicago sees and treats its homeless homefree and street based youth who do what they have to do to survive. We are doing this in 4 ways:

•    Our BAD ENCOUNTER LINE is a form youth can fill out if you have been denied help from a social service or someone who was supposed to help them like a doctor or police officer. THIS FORM IS ANONYMOUS and helps us figure out who, where and why our community is being turned away from help. Youth can fill it out online or by calling 773-728-0127 and pressing the button to speak with a person or by coming to our office and filling out a form.

•    Chicago Street Youth in Motion is our grassroots organizing city wide task force for street based youth. This task force is for all genders. These are the youth who organized and planned for this March/Speak out.

Our task force just wrote a Street Youth Bill of Rights and we will be asking social services to sign on to this Bill and display this poster in their offices to make sure that all young people know our rights and that we can’t be denied help!

•    Healing in Action teaches us how to do our own self exams, about herbs and how we can take of our bodies in case we cant get to a doctor or we are denied help. We made a Universal Self Exam guide and a Healing in Action Zine with tips and tools for going to the doctor, for how to take care of yourself if you can’t get to a doctor and what to do if you are denied help. For more information email

•    Media–we have made CD’s, Zines and Posters! You can get free stuff here and soon you will be able to order a copy of our CD online.. all the tracks were written and produced by YWEP