Social Issues Affecting Homeless Students Conference

On Nov. 18, Chicago HOPES, in conjunction with its partners at Beacon Therapeutic and Diagnostic Treatment Center and Heartland Health Outreach, presented the conference Social Issues Affecting Homeless Students at Pulaski International School of Chicago. A follow-up to our successful summer conference, Supporting Homeless StudentsSIAHS sought to bring together educators and service providers to examine specific issues faced by homeless students and youth, which can be a process made more complex by their housing status.

Dr. Lynn Todman, executive director of The Institute for Social Exclusion at Adler School of Professional Psychology, got the conference off to a rousing start with her presentation on social exclusion. Conference attendees were informed of the depth of social exclusion as a phenomenon that contributes heavily to the homeless situations the students and families we serve are in.  Dr. Todman’s presentation engaged our audience in a thought-provoking discussion that set the tone for further discussions throughout the day and helped to promote the conference’s goal of coalition building and strengthening.

Attendees then attended an array of break-out sessions including: a session presented by Laura Brooks from Broadway Youth Center on issues faced by LGBTQ youth and how we can reduce harm to these youth through allyship; a session on how education is a protective factor for runaway and homeless pregnant and parenting teens from Melissa McGuire of The Night Ministry; and a session focusing on special education and services for homeless youth presented by a group from Access Living. In addition, participants were able to attend a panel on educational rights and resources for unaccompanied homeless youth and a session focusing on homeless youth involved with the Department of Children and Family Services.

In the end, conference attendees left more knowledgeable and ready to work with each other in order to better serve homeless students and youth. More than a few commented on how well organized and informative the conference was. At Chicago HOPES, we understand that it takes many people working to get to ensure that homeless students and youth aren’t deprived of opportunities to succeed just because of their housing situations. We are grateful to our community partners for helping us put the conference together and even more grateful to our conference attendees, who took the time out to increase their knowledge and make connections to benefit homeless students and youth.