Center on Halsted’s Sloane Sullivan Backpack Project

Providing valuable backpacks and supplies to LGBTQ youth currently experiencing housing instability.

Executive Summary

Center on Halsted’s Sloane Sullivan Backpack Project (which honors the memory of Sloane R. Sullivan), provides backpacks and supplies to youth program participants currently experiencing homelessness.  The project is a collaborative effort between the Center, individuals, corporate donors, and other organizations advocating for the LGBTQ community. 

Challenges

The Center on Halsted serves more than 400 young people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer (LGBTQ), and they estimate that 50-60% of their program participants are experiencing homelessness or are, at a minimum, unstably housed.

The Sloane Sullivan Backpack Project was launched to help provide unstably housed youth with access to personal hygiene and comfort necessities. Such items - which many of us take for granted - can be scarce for young people experiencing homelessness.

Center on Halsted volunteers, Susan and Robert Sullivan spearheaded the project after learning about the housing instability of LGBTQ youth, something which in part can be partly due to family rejection as a result of coming out. As this specific population has often either been either kicked out of their homes or have run away, it is common that they carry bare necessities in worn or damaged packaging such as plastic bags. 

Solution

Already being closely associated with the Center and having relationships with many of the youth they saw being directly impacted, Susan and Robert began exploring potential solutions for providing support and help at a time of real trouble for these youth. Believing a backpack to be a possible solution, they came across the CITYPAK backpack.


While initially having some concerns about whether the PAKs would be too big, Susan and Robert soon saw that the CITYPAK backpack would provide LGBTQ youth who are living unstably a solid place to store their belongings, as well as the basic physical comfort that a sturdy, structured and high-quality backpack provides. 


When they explored the PAK size and learned it not to be an issue, choosing CITYPAK became a really easy choice due to the price point of the PAKs, the specific features, and the high-quality materials. 


“The CITYPAK is the centerpiece of our project to provide backpacks and supplies to unstably housed LGBTQ youth in Chicago. The high quality, durability, and special design features of the CITYPAK make it uniquely suited for this highly vulnerable population.” - Robert and Susan Sullivan, Sloane Sullivan Backpack Project Founders

After a successful pilot program in early 2018, the Center on Halsted has continued the Sloane Sullivan Backpack Project initiative to meet the constant and growing needs of their youth. The project, which runs continually, has two approaches - ‘Community Day’ and ‘Grab-n-Go’, the latter being where if someone comes in the Center who is recently unhoused and could benefit from receiving a PAK they are gifted one on the spot. The PAK’s are gifted filled with essentials recipients use on a day-to-day basis: fleece blankets, absorbent micro towels, water bottles, flip flops, first aid kits, and other hygiene supplies. Throughout the year the Center also hosts restocking days, where recipients can visit and stock up on supplies they’re running low on, demonstrating that the PAK’s also provide the Center with an opportunity for continued conversation with those they’re seeking to support. 

In conjunction with the Sloane Sullivan Backpack Project CITYPAK is proud to support youth experiencing homelessness with high-quality, durable, and functional backpacks to carry and secure their belongings.