As a youth, Dino Masciopinto faced challenges that many adults can’t handle. The-18-year-old came out to his parents when he was in sixth grade. “My parents are pretty much accepting of it,” he says. “My dad says he’s OK with it, but he doesn’t want to see it, he doesn’t want to talk about it, he doesn’t want anything to do with it. But he doesn’t mind it.” Masciopinto also was his family’s chief financial support. “I’m the youngest in the house and I was pretty much the only one that worked, and basically my whole paycheck went to them, and it still wasn’t enough.” The young man worked a lot of jobs and, basically, raised himself, he says. His finances, sexuality and LGBTQ and HIV-positive Latino youths. It’s the only program of its kind in the city, and Masciopinto recently a family crisis put him on a path that would eventually leave him homeless. “I had to grow up at a really young age,” Masciopinto says.
Enter El Rescate, a transitional-housing program in Humboldt Park on Chicago’s West Side that serves lived there. For him, and many others, El Rescate became a lifeline. “They just started [El Rescate] two years ago and it’s for LGBTQ because we don’t have a safe place because a lot of shelters tend to be churches and it’s not accept in shelters because of his sexuality. “I had a lot of odds against me: I am gay, I’m homeless, I’m young, and I’m Latino, which made it even worse.” “A homeless youth doesn’t start with the same resources,” says Anne Holcomb, supportive services supervisor at Unity Parenting & Counseling, who has been working with homeless youth in Chicago since 1994. “They don’t just go from a shelter to having their own apartment.” Many youth move back in with family after college, but homeless youth don’t have family to move back in with. “When it comes down to it, you’re on your own,” Masciopinto says. That is why, Holcomb says, transitional housing is key to ending chronic homelessness. Transitional-living facilities provide stable housing, independent living skills and opportunities to pursue education and employment to break the cycle of homelessness. “There are even more barriers if they are LGBTQ, pregnant and parenting, or have a mental disorder,” Holcomb says.
By Michelle Kanaar, The Chicago Reporter