Stormy Monroe sums up life without housing in two words: horrible and terrible. But she has a method for getting through each day.
"With every brush of my hair, with every sway of my hips, that's how I do it," she said.
Monroe grew up on Chicago's West Side, and she came to Lakeview to be with friends. She has yet to find steady housing. For now, she is staying at The Crib, The Night's Ministry's LGBTQ-affirming shelter.
Though she's out to her family, things haven't been easy.
"My parents found out along down the line," she said. "They weren't too happy about it. They're still not too happy about it. But hey, it's my life."
In Lakeview, Monroe was drawn into street life quickly, she said. In some cases it has gotten her into trouble. She spent four-and-a-half months behind bars after she and some friends were caught staying in an apartment that wasn't theirs and taking things from the house, she said (Monroe added that she believed the apartment belonged to another youth).
But trouble also seeks her out, she said. Police often assume that because she is trans, she is doing sex work, a narrative common among many trans women.
Monroe spends a lot of time at the library reading. According to Monroe, she is banned from both Center on Halsted and Broadway Youth Center, so her resources in the neighborhood are currently limited.
"Being a trans woman, there's a certain type of maintenance you have to keep to yourself," she said. "It's very hard to keep that maintenance when you're being told when to go, when to stay."
Monroe sometimes walks through the neighborhood and eyes the fancy condos.
"Sometimes, I'm looking at it, and I'm like, 'Oh, I wish,'" she said. But she keeps her eyes on goals more immediately obtainable. She just enrolled in classes at Harold Washington College.
She wants people to know that LGBTQ street-based youth are open to support from others.
"I just want them to know that we all aren't all bad," she said. "A lot of us come from shaken homes and broken love."
Next week in Generation Halsted, an in-depth look at the Broadway United Methodist Church's innovative Youth Lounge. Photo essay: Overnight in Boystown. Watch what really happens.
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