Chicago Youth Storage Initiative

The Chicago Youth Storage Initiative was launched in November 2014, with seed support from Pierce Family Foundation. The Foundation also provided ongoing support for the Initiative, along with Polk Bros. Foundation, The Knight Foundation, and others. The initiative was led by consultants Lara Brooks, then Megan Wickman.

The Initiative grew out of the May 2014 LGBTQ Homeless Youth Summit, hosted by the Windy City Times. The summit drew more than 300 young people, housing advocates, service providers, and community leaders from across Chicago to discuss issues of LGBTQ homelessness. In response, a coalition of advocates and foundations, including the Pierce Family Foundation, came together to create the Chicago Youth Storage Initiative, addressing a top need identified by young people in attendance—the storage of personal belongings. There are limited spaces in youth housing programs in Chicago, and storage is a critical need when young people wait for, transition from, leave, or age out of those programs.

Why is storage important? The lack of accessible storage space means that young people are more likely to:

  • Be “targeted,” discriminated against, or threatened.

  • Experience loss or theft of legal documentation required for public benefits, educational programs, and employment opportunities—thereby delaying access to emergency assistance or earned income through employment.

  • Lack weather-appropriate clothing, footwear, and clean socks and underwear.

  • Lack professional clothing needed for employment or educational opportunities.

  • Experience loss or theft of family gifts or photos that are irreplaceable.

  • Experience loss or theft of educational resources and tools like books, study materials, and laptops.

“The Pierce Family Foundation likes to move quickly, and is often able to step up and make investments at the front end of new projects. This effort is something we believe can generate results that matter, within a relatively short period of time." –Foundation Executive Director Marianne Philbin


On June 26, 2018 youth service providers, funders, City of Chicago officials, community stakeholders and young people gathered to celebrate the impact of the
2017 has been a big year for the Chicago Youth Storage Initiative. In addition to our current storage program partners - La Casa Norte, Unity Parenting and Counseling, Puerto Rican Cultural Center,
2016 has been a big year for the Chicago Youth Storage Initiative! The Initiative installed lockers in shelters all over the city, and also explored new storage options.
Lara Brooks, director Chicago Youth Storage Initiative, a PFF-backed project, was a moderator at the recent Tiny Homes Summit in Chicago.
The Chicago Youth Storage Initiative (CYSI) continues to make progress locally—and is becoming a voice nationally.