(CBS) —  The numbers are stunning: Gays and lesbians make up nearly half of all homeless youth in Chicago.

Now, a group of volunteers is working to change that. CBS 2’s Chris Martinez reports.

Just by looking at Joe Zamora, you wouldn’t know his struggle – first losing a father and then losing his home.

“I couch-surfed for a while,” he says.

His story of homelessness is echoed loudly in Chicago. About 6,000 LGBT young people are without a home throughout the year, says social worker Cassandra Avenatti.

She sees it daily: the rapid rise of homeless gay and lesbian youth. She created Project Fierce, an all-volunteer group that intends to create homes for the homeless.

The group is now raising money to buy foreclosed properties – a small first step to help turn the tide.

“There are literally thousands of empty buildings that can be used for this purpose,” she says.

The long-term goal is to have several homes across the city as alternatives to already full shelters.

Housing is a big issue in a summit on LGTB homelessness that began Friday in Chicago.



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