CityOpinion

CHEW on that: Homeless LGBTQ+ youth still matter to Edmontonians

In a wholesome turn of events, the Community Health Empowerment and Wellness agency (CHEW) was able to raise $30 thousand for homeless LGBTQ+ youth

It seems that good news is hard to come by these days, between rising international tensions, the growing threat of climate change, and everything Trudeau has ever done at a party. Paying attention to the news can feel like being trapped in an abusive relationship. Things are bleak, and it’s easy to give up hope entirely. But once in a blue moon, something genuinely wonderful happens. 

The Community Health Empowerment and Wellness (CHEW) agency has raised more than $30,000 in an initiative to keep LGBTQ+ youth off the streets. 

Even though LGBTQ+ youth only make up between 5-10 per cent of the youth population, they are about 15-25 per cent of the homeless youth population. In some cities known to be gay-friendly, that number may be closer to 40 per cent because youth from less friendly communities are more likely to flee there. 

The money comes as a donation from many generous Edmontonians. In just a few days of fundraising, the organization can now afford a space six times the size of their current office. Project cordinator of CHEW Corey Wyness, affectionately known as Gay Yoda, said he was blown away by the response and generosity. “I’m so proud to be an Edmontonian right now because this is finally going to happen.″

Wyness says that the new space will include common rooms to relax and socialize in, a kitchen, laundry facilities, and showers. The CHEW space would help keep queer youth off the freezing streets in winter, and Wyness hopes it will lower “survival” crimes, like theft and sex work. 

Wyness says that even in homeless shelters, if someone is visibly queer or trans, it’s likely they’ll be bullied or harrassed. “The level of homophobia and transphobia is so high there,” Wyness says. 

Having a safe place to sleep at night becomes especially important when one considers that illicit drug use statistics are higher among LGBTQ+ people when compared to cisgender, heterosexual people, according to a study done in 2015, and homeless queer youth are more exposed to drug use and sexual exploitation. 

This is just one of the many reasons the work Corey Wyness and CHEW does is so important to the queer community. Even among all of the bad going on in the world, it’s uplifting to be able to rely on your community to help, and I can’t help but feel a sense of pride for our community when I see how quickly Edmontonians are willing to lend a helping hand. 

Bree Meiklejohn

Bree Meiklejohn is a first-year classics and creative writing student. She’s also an aspiring writer who loves dogs, Earl Grey tea, and pretending to know what she’s doing.

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