Thursday, November 19, 2009

WHEN IS ENOUGH....ENOUGH?

video

In San Francisco, we discovered homeless youth infected and suffering from a highly contagious and deadly virus called MRSA (staph infection). San Francisco is actually on our top ten list for the most unsafe places in America for homeless youth; especially homeless LGBTQI youth. From our experience, San Francisco homeless youth are at higher risk for drug abuse, harassment, and assault, than homeless youth in other states. They are continually harassed not only by law enforcement and city maintenance workers, but also from the general community.

Although Jill and I were sleeping on the sidewalk across the street from the library, after only ten days, I was not emotionally or mentally able to go into the library and do our media work. All I had the ability to do was stare at our computer screen and cry. San Francisco has some of the most beautiful and the most entrenched homeless youth we have lived with on our journey.

Another disturbing experience, was realizing that homeless LGBTQI youth in San Francisco, are often shunned by the LGBTQI community, while LGBTQI activists do everything they can to keep programs for homeless youth open in the Castro. This we later discovered, would be the same in almost every city we walked through.

There is good news though. So please stay tuned. On our journey we also met hardcore activists, amazing organizations, and inspired youth that are finding new and creative ways to empower the homeless youth communities in America! We are going to do everything we can to connect everyone we know who is working on resolving this epidemic. All of us are making a difference. And if anyone feels inspired to join us.....we have many ways that they can help make a difference too.

Much Love and Determination,
Chloe Noble




OPERATION SHINE AMERICA TRAILER

video


Here is our (unofficial sampler preview) for our
upcoming documentary. Thank you to all who have helped
us in our walk and in getting the footage we need to tell
the courageous stories of homeless youth across America.

We also dedicate this video to all homeless youth, especially
youth who are kicked out of their homes for being Queer.

We love all of you and hope to one day get you ALL
of the resources and legislation you need.

Chloe Noble and Jill Hardman

Wednesday, October 7, 2009



It's amazing how different people treat you when they think you're homeless. Most people can't even stand to look at you and you are treated as though you are a constant inconvenience. When Chloe and I began this journey, I was able to deal with being pushed around and talked to like I was trash by disassociating it. But now on the second part of our journey, I am filled with anger and resentment towards the people who talk down to us and treat us with disrespect. There are days when everything seems to go perfectly, our spirits are high and we are able to laugh and joke about the difficulties we experience. But then law enforcement, shop owners, and the like come along who are mean and condescending. They tell us that we are not welcome here. If I was sitting on the side of a building wearing a nice suit and looked like I had money, would they say that to me? I highly doubt it. How can people be so quick to judge based on the way one looks when there is so much diversity in this country? One of the hardest things I've experienced on this journey is the constant dehumanization. It breaks you down, destroys your spirit, and causes you to lose faith in humanity. When someone approaches me in those moments I find myself reacting with anger before they even say a word. And a lot of times, all that person wanted to do was give me a dollar or a sandwich. My eyes fill with tears and I am ashamed when I realize that I have forgotten once again that there are still kind and caring human beings in this world. Now I understand and have compassion for the homeless who are aggressive and sometimes verbally attack you when you walk by with your coffee and breakfast muffin. You see, we give what we receive, it's just human nature. I ask all of you who read this to think twice the next time you pass a homeless person on the street. You would be amazed at what a simple smile and nod can do for the human spirit.


- Little Lion





Chloe and I met Ghost our first night in San Francisco. We had spent the day walking around downtown trying to figure out where we were going to sleep for the night. We eventually found a patch of grass up against a building and although we assumed the cops would come along and make us leave, we decided that it was worth the risk. Grass is much more comfortable than concrete. Around 1:00 a.m. I woke up to what I thought was rain hitting my sleeping bag but when I pulled it off my my head, I was sprayed in the face by sprinklers. I jumped up, yelled at Chloe, threw my sleeping bag off the grass and then went back for my backpack. Chloe and I walked around with our wet sleeping bags in our arms until we found a place to sit so that we could figure out what to do next. That's when Ghost walked by and asked us for a cigarette. We gave him one and he sat down and introduced himself. He told us that he knew of a place right around the corner where we could sleep without being bothered.




The three of us stayed in that spot for the next four days because it felt safe and nobody seemed to care that we were there. During the day, Chloe would go to the library across the street to work and I would walk around the city with Ghost. He became like a brother to me in a very short time and it broke my heart when we had to say goodbye because a friend had offered us a bed and we knew that we couldn't take him with us. The first two days after finding a home, I was able to find Ghost and bring him along as we ventured around the city making plans for our Shine that would take place the following weekend. On the third day, he was no where to be found and Chloe and I got busy trying to organize a successful event. All the while I couldn't stop thinking of Ghost and hoping that we would run into him again. Sadly, Pride Day in San Francisco was the last I ever saw him. My eyes fill up with tears knowing that I will probably never see him again and I never even got a chance to say a final goodbye.




Ghost was an incredible young man, our angel in disguise who made us feel safe in a place filled with drugs and violence. At times he would pull out his guitar and play for us as we waited for night to fall. He was a bright shining light in our lives and I don't think he ever knew it. Before us, Ghost wondered the streets alone, not knowing what it was to have friends, to be loved and cared for. You could see the intense pain and sorrow in his eyes, the fear and loneliness. I wanted to keep him with me forever, show him the love and support that he deserved and so desperately needed. I like to think that we were able to give him that, even if it was only for a short time. I just wish that I could've done more.

We will carry Ghost in our hearts forever and we want to shine a light on him... Because it is for Ghost and others like him that we continue to walk.


- Little Lion

Friday, August 21, 2009

LAUREN SPEAKS


"Though most of us in America are housed...

How many of us are still homeless?

How many of us are still lonely and scared?

And how many others, sleeping in tents or shelters,

in squats or in cars, in doorways and under bridges,

know better than anyone what it means to have family?

...to be cared for? ...to feel at home?"

- Lauren

Friday, July 24, 2009

OPERATION SHINE SALT LAKE CITY


Dear Advocates,


I was going to post some basic info about the SLC Shine. Instead I am writing this letter from my heart - to ALL of you - across this nation.


There are not words to express the deep appreciation that Jill and I feel for everyone one of you. In the past 3 months my heart has broken many times, because of what we have witnessed and experienced living on the streets in your cities and towns.

But these youth, these American homeless youth, have given me hope. How is that? How is it that the victims of such intense discrimination are the ones who offer hope......and wisdom? They have already taught us so much. In their eyes are reflected the same dreams that all of us share. They wish to belong to a family, to a community that will protect and nurture them, a society that will stand by them in solidarity and equality.

In their eyes also, we have seen the same love and hunger for justice that flows from each one of YOU. And in your presence also we have gained much wisdom and hope for a better NOW. Through emails, letters, texts, twitter, and every form of communication, we hear your voices rising in tune with true justice and genuine change. We are all making a difference.

Thank you for being a part of this movement. Thank you for walking with us (even in mighty Spirit) every step of the way.

Because of you, communities are stirring, old judgements are being questioned, arms that have never known hardcore outreach are reaching out, state senators are being called, new bills are being written up, and new "radical" programs for homeless youth are sprouting up everywhere. (Radical....like finally getting some shower and food programs up in the Castro.) Sometimes I get angry, because I don't understand how something so humane, so decent, so civilized can ever be seen as radical. But that's what we are up against. And EVERY great activist for Humanity has faced this strange state of disassociative society.

That you are NOT numb, that you push forward in the face of discrimination and fear, that you continue to have great faith in Humanity, that you long for a better world, and that you are deeply motivated to work to bring about the change you wish to see in the world....these are the reasons I am honored to stand with all of you - in this movement - and in the Social Justice Movement as a whole.

Saturday. July 25th. 4pm. Utah Pride Center. 361 N. 300 W.

This is our moment Salt Lake City to stand with all the others in this nation....and Shine for the homeless youth in America.

See you there! Chloe

Thank you for your patience...


Jill and I have been honestly overwhelmed with our experience on this walk, which began in May. We have almost 3 months worth of footage, photos, and stories that we are searching through - to give you the best posts, that will paint a very clear picture of what the homeless youth in America are going through. We have been living primarily out of our backpacks while we gather these experiences and have had no genuine down time to update our website or even process internally the trauma we have witnessed and experienced on our journey thus far.

It is our intention to raise awareness with the best of our ability and we appreciate your patience and compassion. For the next 3 weeks we will be staying in Utah (our hometown), setting up the Salt Lake City Shine, updating the website, preparing Washington for their Shine, and getting ready to begin our walk to D.C.

We appreciate all of the support we are receiving all over the nation in getting the message out: YOUTH HOMELESSNESS IN AMERICA IS A GROWING EPIDEMIC AND DESERVES IMMEDIATE AND NATIONAL ATTENTION! And over 40% of these youth are kicked out of their homes because they are QUEER!

On our journey across America we are meeting brilliant intense activists who share our passion for the Social Justice Movement. More importantly, these activists are everyday people with families, dreams, hopes, and fears. We are all making a difference. And we have learned that even the smallest acts of kindness create ripples of love and hope that will last a lifetime.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

So let's keep pushing forward. We will be getting posts of our walk up soon. We also will be posting some positive examples of direct action being taken for homeless youth all over the nation - direct action that has been inspired by our walk and by all of your efforts in joining this movement with us.

Chloe

Thursday, July 9, 2009

OPERATION SHINE SAN FRANCISCO


OPERATION SHINE 
SAN FRANCISCO

5:30 pm 
Come enjoy a free dinner at the 
LGBTQ CENTER.

5:45 pm 
Operation Shine videos will also be previewed.

6:15 pm 
March to the Castro!

7:15  pm 
Leaders from our community will speak.


If you would like more information 
or have any questions about 
Operation Shine San Francisco 
or Homeless Youth Pride Walk...

Please contact Chloe Noble.
noble.echo@gmail.com
(801) 708-9515


Sunday, June 7, 2009

THE STRANGEST PLACES...




In the city......beauty can be found in the strangest places.

CLINT


Chloe and Jill discover Clint who takes them 
to a dry doorstep where they all sleep 
safe and sound for the night. 


In only a few days, Chloe and Jill are beginning 
to experience why homeless youth bond so 
strongly and quickly with their "street family". 


Clint showed them genuine love, support, and safety within a dangerous place where law enforcement portrayed themselves as the enemy. Clint opened up his doorstep to two strangers without asking any questions. He gave them all he had. Unlike the pastor, who couldn't even give up the wet and cold doorsteps of a church in his care.

 
The irony of it all......
is almost too much to bear.



 Chloe talks about her concerns and hopes for the walk:

Friday, June 5, 2009

THE CHURCH


The next night, (after walking all day trying to find a part for Chloe's backpack), they found an unfenced church courtyard. Here they slept in the rain on the doorsteps of this church and were later told to leave by law enforcement. You can see the video here: The Church


Jill and Chloe find a dry spot underneath the awning of what is supposed to be the Seattle LGBTQ center. (They later discover that the LGBTQ center has closed because of lack of funding.) The beer can in the picture belongs to a homeless person not willing to be photographed. They spend the next few hours talking to a myriad of people convening at their newly found dry street corner. As they witness drug deal after drug deal, and even some minor violence - they wonder to themselves - 'where is law enforcement now'? 


SEATTLE - OUR FIRST 24 HOURS

Chloe's  "dog" has everything she needs.



So 'why oh why' she wonders is she 
lugging around this 50 pound backpack? 
(Oh yeah. Hundreds of miles of prairie 
and desert lay in between each city.) 



Here is Lil Lion (Jill), strapped to her 
50 pounds of pleasure as well. 
It wouldn't be so bad...


...but look at the size of 
those Seattle street hills! 


Their first night in Seattle they 
slept in West Lake Park. 
Wet, cold concrete was a blessing 
after riding Greyhound for 20 hours. 

Here are some videos of the
next morning and the  
following days:



ON A GREYHOUND TO SEATTLE






Lil Lion riding the Greyhound for the first time. 
It took us over 20 hours to arrive in Seattle, Washington.

Here are some videos of their Greyhound experience.

KATRINA

Katrina is an LGBTQ homeless youth in Utah. What moved me right away about Katrina's story is that she lives indoors as a homeless youth, yet spoke of some of the same kinds of mental and emotional hardships as the homeless youth living outdoors. 


"I stay in the womens’ shelter, where there are no resources for youth my age," Katrina told me. "Teenagers need more sleep and have completely different needs than adults."


Homeless shelters are not available to youth in Utah. This means that Utah has a higher percentage of homeless youth living outdoors than the national average. While some LGBTQ youth like Katrina (who are under the age of 20), stay in adult shelters, they still have a hard time getting all of their needs met and risk further discrimination. 


"I'm kind of stuck in two worlds," she told me. "At the women's shelter there is no one there that I can depend on. And because I stay at the adult shelter, sometimes I am treated differently by the other kids. We are all family here [at the Homeless Youth Resource Center]. But it would be nice if we could all live together in one place - somewhere safe where we would be allowed to grow up and get all of our needs met."


The Homeless Youth Resource Center (VOA.UT) provides resources and programs for homeless youth. The Utah Pride Center also does what it can to help LGBTQ in crisis. Because of lack of funding, these organizations and others like them can only offer limited resources to the youth they serve. 


Katrina made it clear to me that homeless youth are just like youth with families. When they get their basic needs met, they want to do other things than just survive. They want to go to college and become active members of the community. Katrina spoke to me of her dreams to go to college and someday make a living doing something she loves.


"It is hard to be homeless, whether or not you stay in a shelter," she told me. "I know many kids out here who feel alone and abandoned. No matter what, it seems like we have been left behind. It is weird to me that some people think we are asking for so much. We are only asking that we have a chance - a chance to show you who we are. And not even that - sometimes we are only asking for breakfast. How is that any different than any other kid?"


The Homeless Youth Resource Center recently lost funding that helped provide homeless youth breakfast. Within a matter of days after hearing Katrina speak at our Launch Event, Ginger Phillips (a simple member of our community), made it possible for the homeless youth in Salt Lake City to receive breakfast everyday. Now her church, the Sacred Light of Christ, donates their time, energy, and resources to make sure this happens.


This is a powerful example of how one passionate person can make a positive impact and of how the community itself can reach out to these youth in need.


Katrina can be seen as a guest speaker at our Utah Launch event on our YouTube channel OperationShine. LINK: KATRINA

DOGS AND FRILL LINES




Sirus shows us his "dog". These "dogs" or "frill lines", (a chain hooked to the belt with a carabiner that holds a multi-tool, a knife, a flashlight, mace, silverware, army issue can openers, and other survival tools), are worn by him and other homeless youth to protect themselves and survive outdoors. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

SIRUS




Sirus is a homeless youth in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is shown above pointing out the scars he received from being assaulted by law enforcement in a squat he was living in. They came in at night when they were sleeping, he told us. They threatened to stab one of them in the stomach if they didn't start moving on and the violence began. 

As you can see from the photo above, Sirus lives completely outdoors, carrying everything he owns on his back. We filmed the "dogs" and "frill lines", (a chain hooked to the belt with a carabiner that holds a multi-tool, a knife, a flashlight, mace, silverware, army issue can openers, and other survival tools), that he and some other homeless youth carry to protect themselves and survive outdoors. 

Many homeless youth also carry  "talismans"  full of  "trinkets", (little hand-made bags that hold small items that are very meaningful to them). Some youth attach these trinkets and also patches that they have hand-made onto their clothes, securing them with dental floss. In the more urban cities, homeless youth segregate themselves into different tribes. Each tribe has their own way of expressing themselves. They often identify one another through the symbols and "gear" that they are sporting. 

We may never see Sirus again. He was heading to Portland a few days before we were leaving for Seattle. Maybe we will run into him as we walk toward San Francisco. Maybe we will somehow meet up on our way back through Utah. No matter what, I hope we see him again. 

Speaking with him made me wonder how I was going to let go of all these youth as I walk across America. His stories were my stories and our memories unfolded like twin tapestries across a generational divide. After seven years of finally having a home myself, I look back and it's still happening. Will it be happening ten years from now? Only we can decide that. 

These youth need us to take a national stand. We have the power to end youth homelessness not just help them to survive. We have the power to say enough. Let's not let another decade pass without doing everything we can. If our nation does not start treating youth homelessness as the epidemic it is, we will see another generation lost to our nation's inability to take responsibility for its lack of complete and unified Social Justice.

Notation: Unfortunately we lost 22 hours of footage, which includes all of the filming we did of the homeless youth in Utah. We will be filming them again on our way back through Utah in July. 

KARMA


Karma is a homeless youth in Salt Lake City, Utah. Like many homeless youth, he was wary of being photographed or filmed. His demeanor was kind and gentle. But I could see, after speaking with him for awhile, that he had already begun to develop the thick skin needed to live on the streets. His canine companion played fetch happily around us, paying no attention to our filming. 

I have noticed a strong bond between homeless youth and their animal companions. It is part of the street code, they told us, to make sure their "mascota" (animal companion) is fed even before they are. And when the animals get hurt, youth often surrender all of their "spange" (spare change or cash), to ensure the animal gets some form of medical attention. They are this protective and nurturing with one another as well. It is peculiar and amazing to witness such continuous and genuine love among groups of youth who have been kicked out of their own homes.

Karma talked to us about the need for homeless youth to know how to defend themselves and the need to stick together for protection. "This is my family now," he told us, "We do whatever we can to stay out of trouble and keep one another safe." 

When we asked what the main dangers were for homeless youth, Karma mentioned a safe place to stay at night and harassment from law enforcement. It is the same for many other homeless youth. The top 5 dangers we hear from homeless youth are: 

1) Finding a safe place to sleep at night.
2) Police harassment and brutality.
3) Non-homeless youth and adult sexual predators.
4) Street culture (i.e. drug abuse, alcoholism, survival sex, violence, etc.)
5) Other homeless youth and/or older homeless.

It is imperative, in our opinion, that safe housing be established for America's homeless youth immediately. It is unacceptable to us that these youth remain living outdoors for even one more day. It is also essential that the organizations that are working hard to provide shelter and other basic needs to these youth, be adequately funded and backed by effective legislation. If for ANY reason a "prominent" community of the United States suddenly became homeless, our country would make certain they were housed within a number of hours. We need to show this same equality to everyone in America - homeless or not. 

What does the homeless youth epidemic in our country say about America? And who would we be without the ability to casually look away from our neighbors obvious pain and hunger? 

Would we see ourselves in them? Would this make us want to help them or to shut down and run away? These are all important questions that deserved to be answered. 

We can make a difference. With the help of these homeless youth and the organizations that serve them...... we will show you how. Please spread the word about Homeless Youth Pride Walk, so that we can shine a light on this epidemic. Stay tuned for effective ways you can reach out to your local community and national organizations that strive to end youth homelessness in America.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CHRIS


Chris is a homeless youth in Salt Lake City, Utah. He travels coast to coast in search of different stomping grounds depending on the weather, available resources, and the interactions he has in each city. When we first met Chris, he quietly refused to be filmed or photographed. Which seemed strange to me, because he appeared to be one of the leaders in the small group that we were interviewing. I will never forget how it felt to speak with him. His demeanor was tender and tempered with the kind of wisdom that can only come from having been deeply wounded. 

He watched from a distance as we interviewed and filmed the other youth, but he did not seem energetically withdrawn. It was as if he was used to being disregarded, so he stayed out of everyone's way. But he was still eager inside to be a part of everything going on around him. 

He strapped on his large army backpack and then sat on the ground and leaned way back. This motion turned his backpack into a make-shift recliner that he could easily rest against. I am always astonished at how creatively these youth make everything work to their advantage. Especially when they own almost nothing. 

Chris and I talked for awhile and I realized as we spoke that interviewing these youth was going to be harder than I imagined. Because I couldn't see any reason why Chris should even be homeless. I wanted to take him home and let him live in our spare bedroom. But I knew I couldn't do that. And then I felt guilty for even having a spare bedroom, while knowing these youth were sleeping outside or in abandoned buildings every night. I wanted to take them all home. And I wanted to find Chris's parents and throw a 400 person protest on their front lawn!

It was extremely apparent to me that with the adequate resources and guidance, Chris would be able to expand on his inherent talents and quite possibly become a leader within our community. 

Chris is amazing and genuine and worth so much more than having to live in survival mode every day just getting by.  It angers me to know he is still out there. He is one of the reasons we need to establish a well funded over-night homeless youth facility in Utah. 

A LETTER FROM CHLOE NOBLE

TO THE AMERICAN COMMUNITY

MAY 01, 2009


We are walking simply because we believe that our youth should not have to live on the streets, wondering how they are going to get their own needs met.


Many American citizens are not aware that there are sometimes as many as 1.3 million homeless youth in America. These youth often brave the elements huddling for safety in abandoned buildings and make- shift camps, that are eventually raided by law enforcement without warning. There are few safe places for these youth to develop roots of their own and receive the support they need to reach their full potential. And the organizations that are able to support these youth are often in need of adequate resources, funding, and legislation.


It is a privilege to live in a safe and warm home surrounded by a family who loves and respects you - a privilege that is taken (sometimes with force) from the homeless youth that grace the streets of our nation. For almost 400,000 of these homeless youth, this privilege is stripped from them because they identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The Gay Civil Rights movement is inseparable from the epidemic of homeless youth in America, because Queer youth now make up almost half of the homeless youth population.


These LGBT youth go on to be homeless, where they are more at risk than their heterosexual peers, for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, chemical or alcohol dependancy, discrimination and death. Do you know *13 youth die each day from homelessness? (Statemans Journal, 17 August 2008)*


There is a movement happening in America and although it is quiet...... it runs very deep. We have witnessed first hand the suffering of these children and we say - enough. Now is the time for us to stand with those who would bring families together, not tear them apart. Now is the time for us to feel the impact that senseless discrimination is having on children all over this country. Now is the time to understand that this impact directly affects all LGBTQ people. When one of us is assaulted or dehumanized, all of us are assaulted or dehumanized. When a portion of our society lacks the compassion and integrity to not allow all citizens even their most basic human rights - the impact is intensely polarizing and inhumane. This is why this battle is literally dividing our country in two and driving beautiful children into the streets to live as animals.


We have been sorely disappointed in some of those who dare to call themselves defenders of family values. What is the value of allowing children to live homeless on their own without any real means of growth or stability? What is the value in withholding freedom from others? There is no peaceful reason to invest in these harmful ideologies. There is no peaceful reason to abandon a child.


We have great faith in what we are doing, because we have been deeply moved by the courage and strength of homeless youth. We have seen them make the transition into adulthood under sometimes unbearable circumstances. With appropriate guidance and support we have also seen them become leaders in our community. Although very few in our hometown (Salt Lake City), because resources for homeless youth are scarce.


We have great faith in what we are doing. Because we have been deeply moved by the patience, tenacity, and creativity of those who serve homeless youth - even with inadeqaute resources.


I want the hardworking and heartfelt members of our national community and community organizations, to start getting the adequate resources, funding, legislation, and support they need to resolve these issues. Our society in general and our systems of care have a duty to serve these youth and to make sure they are protected inside and outside of the home.


The bottom line - these youth need assistance NOW and they need it without exception.


The past week, we have been filming homeless youth in Salt Lake City, Utah. The rate of Queer homeless youth in Utah is higher than the national average. Their stories will be the first to go on the website and in many ways they will be the closest to our heart. Because Salt Lake City is our hometown.


While we are enjoying our service work here and excited to band together in our passion to end homelessness, we understand the grave danger and profound suffering that these youth face everyday. We realize, this underground society of children are not often seen or understood by those outside of it.


Our joy comes in serving them and helping to aid them in their recovery. We are also preparing ourselves, and the readers who are following our website, for the hardship they will see once we begin to document the lives of these children.


What we will show you will appall and astonish you. You will be moved to tears and sometimes even rolling with laughter. You will grow to love with this unseen nation of youth and long to reach out to them in every way you can.


They are the children of the Urban Jungle. And we are ready to help them tell their stories of personal defeat and of triumph. Collectively, their story is one of great courage and surprising wisdom. They have much to teach us. We are ready now to hear them, to see them, and if they so choose......to help them any way we can.


There is a movement happening in our nation, a crying out for justice that will not relinquish its hold......and we are calling it OPERATION SHINE.


Homeless Youth Pride Walk 2009 and OPERATION SHINE were created to raise awareness of the LGBTQ homeless youth epidemic in America.