Art show to display work of homeless

Dan Hill

Chicago’s Second Unitarian Church will host a free art showcase with a twist tonight.

Attendees will take in displays of music, visual arts and storytelling. All of the artists performing will be homeless youth.

For the fifth year in a row, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless will provide disadvantaged youth a forum to share their experiences in an exhibition titled “Our Brrlin Wall!” said youth attorney Beth Cunningham.

“It was started to give the kids a forum to tell their stories to adults,” she said. “It’s a youth to adult show, it’s not geared to youth.”

Cunningham helps lead the Homeless Experts Living Life’s Obstacles youth group, a homeless youth activism group that meets once a week. HELLO mobilizes disadvantaged young people, involving them in city budget hearings and trips to state lawmakers in Springfield to fund homeless youth programs.

HELLO is just one of the efforts organized by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. The non-profit organization works with the Chicago agencies La Casa Norte and Teen Living Programs to provide shelter for homeless youth, but its primary focus is activism.

“We work with community organizers, shelters and attorneys who represent homeless people and half of their work involves youth, students and the issues they have,” said CCH Associate Director Anne Bowhay.

In 2006, the coalition collaborated with the University of Illinois at Chicago in a study that reported 9,871 children are homeless on an average night in the city.

Mayor Daley launched a 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness that focuses on homeless prevention, housing and services to provide nearly 12,500 units of housing and shelter by the year 2012. Although Daley’s newly proposed budget adds $1.4 million to the plan, Bowhay said as families struggle financially, needs are not being met.

“There are not enough beds for youth, and you’re finding very young adults and older teens living on their own,” she said.

“Our Brrlin Wall!” will not raise money to open more homeless shelters, save families from poverty or solve the city’s budget problems – admission is free. It will, however, give needy Chicago youth a voice, Cunningham said.

“We try to get the kids involved in issues that are important and pertinent to them and whatever we do, we try to keep it all related to the issue of homelessness,” she said.”Our Brrlin Wall!” starts at 7:30 p.m. at Second Unitarian Church, 656 West Barry Ave.[email protected]