You’re invited to a training done by YWEP’s task force!

Understanding Homeless, Home-free and Street Based Youth Who Do What They Have to do to Survive

An accountability training designed by the Chicago Street Youth in Motion Task Force as a guide for teaching youth organizations and institutions on how to be accountable to us.

The Chicago street youth in Motion task force has been working really hard to find new and creative ways to hold helping organizations and institutions accountable to us. This task force is a component of the Street Youth Rise Up Campaign– a youth led campaign organized by the Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP) to change the way Chicago sees and treats its homeless, home-free and street based youth for doing what they have to survive.This interactive training will provide the opportunity for organizations and institutions to learn what it’s like to be a homeless, home-free and/or street based youth living in Chicago.

It will address the challenges and stigma they face when trying to access services and seeking help from institutions.  This training will also provide tools on how you can be accountable to street based youth and what street based youth are doing to teach and hold organizations and institutions accountable to them.

When: Friday, JULY 13 2012

Place: Howard Brown Health Center 4025 N. Sheridan Road Chicago, IL 60613

Time: 9:30 am -11:30am

Contact us or RSVP:

Or you can call YWEP: 773-728-0127


We are so excited to release our NEW RESEARCH on our BAD ENCOUNTER LINE which shows how and why young people in the sex trade and street economy are being TURNED AWAY from social services and helping systems!
This interactive, multi media event will tell you about our findings, our healing justice work, and about how YWEP is organizing young people to change the way Chicago see’s and treats it’s homeless, home-free and street based youth who do what they have to do to survive!

Time: 3pm-5pm CST
800 South Halsted Street  Chicago, IL 60607

or for our out of town allies and all media
you can attend our WEBINAR 
on May 29th, 2012
Time: 3pm-4pm CST/4pm-5pmEST/1pm-2pm PST



Please support us!

Nov. 30, 2011

Dear Friends and Allies:

We are reaching out to ask you to help us raise money to support the important work of Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP). YWEP is run by youth of color in the sex trade and street economies. We are a member based social justice organization that is led by and for our constituency. Our organization is staffed and run by us,  people between the ages of 17-25.

Our mission is to offer safe, respectful, free-of-judgment spaces for girls and young women, including transgender girls and transgender 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 young person can be empowered and that we are all priceless, creative, and smart and can be leaders in our communities.

By making a donation, you can know that you are connected with work that advances young people, people of color, LGBTQ youth, and youth who are living and surviving on the street to positions of leadership and decision-making. We are building a movement of self-determination, connecting with each other to create and share resources, and realizing new ways of honoring our rights.

YWEP is my anchor to reality; a needed reminder that I am not the stereotype or statistic the world tells me that I am. YWEP validates me, supports me, encourages me, doesn’t judge me and empowers me to continue to grow into the self sufficient woman I am supposed to be. YWEP provides the necessary safety that my heart needs to grow wings.”

Our first Campaign and our 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, and social services. Out of this research, YWEP created a hotline called the Bad Encounter Line (BEL).  The BEL is a way to report bad experiences street-based youth encounter with institutions and tracks the neighborhood, gender and time of day so YWEP can learn more about how we are being harmed.  Results show that street based young people in Chicago are being harmed and/or denied help from systems set up to serve our needs. 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, law enforcement and health care are the most likely institutions found to deny help or cause violence to youth involved in the sex trade and street economy.

In response, YWEP has created a campaign called Street Youth Rise Up and organized a city wide task force made up of 122 youth from around Chicago. 

Street Youth Bill of Rights

The Chicago Street Youth in Motion Task Force has also drafted a Street Youth Bill of Rights.

This collectively written document seeks to hold institutions accountable by asking them to sign on, display our Bill of Rights posters, offer a clear grievance procedure, and participate in a training series using a curriculum written by us about how to work effectively with our constituency.

Here are some more 2011 events that highlight the way we are working to change the way people THINK  about and SEE homeless, home-free, and street based youth:

In September, YWEP led our first march through Chicago with nearly 100 adults and young people coming together to demand being heard.  In July, We released a hip hop CD that includes spoken word and jazz that we wrote, produced, performed and recorded ourselves. Throughout the year, we learned about herbs, how to make herbal pills, do self exams, use speculums and we have been teaching other young people about this with our zines and outreach so that we know how to take care of ourselves when we are turned away from, can’t afford or unable to get the help that we need.

When everyone in my life judged me and told me I was worthless; when every service provider believed that I couldn’t do anything for myself because I was just another victim—the women at YWEP were the only ones telling me that I could protect myself, that I deserved to take care of me and that I had the power to dream a new life. The women of YWEP were the only ones who really cared about ME.”

We’re a small organization, so every dollar is important. For an idea of where your money will be going:

$10 a month makes it possible for a young person to participate in Girls in Charge, our leadership group that makes all the major decisions at YWEP.

$25 a month makes it possible for a youth outreach worker to provide harm reduction information on reproductive health and drugs, legal rights, responding to violence and reducing harm / increasing safety in the sex trade.

 $50 a month makes it possible for our members to conduct workshops with young people throughout the city of Chicago about the realities of the sex trade, who benefits from the sex trade, and what young people can do to support young women in the sex trade.

 A one-time $500 covers a youth staff person’s salary for a month and $1,000.00 pays 12 youth outreach workers to reach 500 street based young people a year with life saving information and supplies.

ANY AMOUNT makes it possible for YWEP to continue to reach other street based youth, provide learning tools, resources for survival and information about getting involved with our youth-led campaign.

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