Lack of funds has forced a well-known LGBT-friendly youth shelter to close for the remainder of the summer, with plans to reopen in October.
The Crib, a 20-bed youth shelter run by The Night Ministry and housed at Lake View Lutheran Church, has become an LGBT community fixture since it opened in January 2011 because it is believed to be one few safe places for LGBTQ homeless youth to sleep.
But a gap in funding streams has forced The Night Ministry to shutter the program through September, according to Rev. Barbara Bolsen, vice president of programs for The Night Ministry.
"It was a really really really really tough decision to do this," said Bolsen.
Bolsen said the closure was cost-saving measure aimed at keeping the organization afloat through difficult economic times.
The Crib has been funded through a combination of City funds and private donations. The City contract is for a "seasonal shelter" from October through April, and it is worth $250,000.
Last year, the organization bridged that gap with private donations, but this year that money came up short. According to Bolsen, the organization's board of directors instructed them to close The Crib until the until the date mandated for city funding.
The shelter closed at the start of The Night Ministry's fiscal year, July 1.
"Unless we receive a windfall, we won't reopen until October," said Bolsen. "While it's horrible to have cut back on programming, we need to survive so we can provide programming."
The Night Ministry has suffered other cuts, said Bolsen, including cutting back on nights its Health Outreach Bus delivers services on the street from six nights a week to four.
The Crib opened at the start of 2011 as a pilot project that ran through May 2011 and was re-opened as a fully-funded project last August. It has since housed hundreds of young people between ages 18-24, many of them LGBTQ.
The cuts have been a call-to-action for local service providers and LGBT-affirming churches. According to Rev. Lois Parr, pastor at Broadway United Methodist Church, several groups are strategizing on how to fill the gaps in services for the summer.
"This is an urgent request for our young people," said Parr.
Parr said that the groups are discussing opening churches as cooling centers for LGBT homeless youth and providing places for youth to shower. They are also working to provide meals and other services on weekends, when some organizations that serve youth are closed.
The groups are looking for volunteers and donations of CTA fare cards. Both are being accepted through Lake View Presbyterian Church