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Aspiring Cosmetologist


“Homelessness looks different for everyone. Everyone comes to homelessness from a different walk or path, and it doesn’t just look like one thing.”

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"My name is Edwin, I’m 19 years old. I grew up both in Chicago and Mexico. … My first language was Spanish. At six, I came to Chicago with my aunt and I grew up on the South Side of Chicago."

What do you do for fun?

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“I am really into cosmetology. I also do drag as well… hair, nails and makeup... I've been trying to get into more barbering as well. Cause barbering just challenges me a little bit more than doing more feminine hairstyles.”

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What drew you to cosmetology?

When did your journey with homelessness start?

Had you lived with family members besides your parents?

 “I was living with my aunt. It was just like constant arguing and verbal abuse… It came down to one situation where I was just like, 'Okay, that’s it,' which was her daughter trying to beat me - with fists. That's when I was just like, 'I can't be here anymore.'"

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After leaving his aunt’s house in 2021, Edwin found resources at Streetlight Chicago’s Southside Safe Space, a resource and community center for transgender and gender nonconforming youth.

What kind of resources did you access through Southside Safe Space?

For the past year, Edwin has lived in one of the transitional housing communities run by Ignite, a nonprofit organization.

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What’s something that surprised you about living in a transitional housing community?

“There are consequences for staying out late, but not like the consequences I used to face, like verbal abuse. Here, they sit down with you and then [ask], why were you late, and [explain] this is the consequence. It was like, my first feeling of a little bit of freedom.”

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What's something you're looking forward to?

Edwin will also be starting a paid internship that he found through Ignite. He will most likely be working at a salon doing hair!

What dreams do you have for your future?

“I want success! Like, if I were to imagine my life in a painting, it would just be me in front of a star and, like, a spotlight… I'm a person who fantasizes a lot - that's probably something I picked up from having to adapt to different homes and things - my imagination would run wild.”

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Edwin is a passionate advocate for fellow Chicago youth who has been a part of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Student Voice and Activism Fellowship (SVAF).  He spoke to us about his own ideas for raising up youth experiencing homelessness in Chicago.

I always had this [idea] even far before I experienced homelessness: Making a shelter in Chicago [using closed-down] CPS schools. Especially if there's students who are facing homelessness, because now those students …don't have to worry about what they're going to eat, having WiFi to complete an assignment online, or stressing over an assignment or they don't understand it – because I have been there so many times. Where I'm too caught up in what's happening at home, and I can't focus on my work. They're also building relationships around their community and living with other students facing those similar situations.”

What advice do you have for other young people?

“Don't let anything stop you or discourage you from your calling and what you want to pursue.”



21% of youth experiencing homelessness in Chicago reported they were LGBTQ+

(Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Cook County, Illinois)





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