A Voice for Homeless LGBT Youth
Last week, I spent an extended weekend in San Francisco, desiring the thought of breathing in the fresh bay air and soaking up the Folsom Street Fair sun. Though that fantasy did not play out due to time spent working behind hotel doors, I periodically had the opportunity to step beyond the marble floors and push through that incredibly heavy hotel entrance door. As I sat outside of Starbucks, sipping my soy latte, I knew I was not alone. In every direction, I saw a man, a woman, a senior, a teen – all homeless.
According to the Advocate, the National Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning Homeless Youth met in Washington, D.C., last Friday, to ask Congress to help homeless LGBT children. This coalition of non-profit directors, civil rights advocates, policy analysts, and youth advocates will discuss their goals to reduce the number of gay youth who live on the streets.
Seven different studies show that 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ. Studies have shown that LGBT children face unique challenges, such as homophobia and alienation. In 2007, the number of homeless LGBT youth in America was considered an epidemic, affecting children of all ethnicities. The number of homeless youth is staggering and their stories heartbreaking.
- 26 percent of LGBT adolescents were told to leave their homes when they came out to their family/guardian
- Many experience physical, sexual and emotional abuse
- LGBT adolescents are more likely to use drugs, participate in sex work, and attempt suicide
- LGBT adolescents are more likely to be threatened, belittled, and abused at shelters
In 2007, the New York Times shared a powerful online video that gives the general public a glimpse into the lives of LGBT homeless youth. Though it might be dated, it depicts the challenges and struggles LGBT youth face daily. Additionally, Katherine Moennig, who plays Shane on The L Word, collaborated with the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI), to create a special mini-series raising awareness of this very issue. HMI is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit social service, education and advocacy organization dedicated to serving LGBTQ youth. Visit Our Chart to view the videos.
My greatest struggle with homeless LGBT youth is the lack of visibility and lack of an active voice for this high risk population. There are few organizations that address the concerns, fears, and needs of the young and homeless LGBT. In 2007 this epidemic was raised as a concern but vanished quickly thereafter. Without the support of non-profit organizations, community leaders, and the media, more than 1.6 million youth will remain on the streets — without shelter, services, or support. It is our obligation and priority to give these young minds an opportunity to grow, to succeed, and to love. We need to ensure that these children have the privileges we take advantage of each day — a roof over their heads, daily meals, education, and support from someone they can call a friend. If housing is a right, than why are there so many left behind? We have the power to give a voice to the issue of homeless LGBT youth. All we have to do is open our eyes the next time we walk down the street and give these children a second of our time, instead of waiting for them to come to us.
For additional resources and learn more about how you can be a part of the solution, visit your local community shelters and LGBT organizations, or visit the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force or the Safe Schools Coalition.
Image courtesy of HMI