National Homelessness Youth Awareness Month: November

Did you know that:

  • LGBT Youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness.
  • LGBTQ youth are over represented in the foster care system.  They are more likely to become homeless, according to http://pflag.com. One in three transgender Americans have been homeless at some point in their lives.
  • According to Covenant House, LGBT youth comprise 40% of all who are homeless, but just 7% of total youth. http://www.convenanthouse.org/homeless-issues/lgbtq-homeless-youth.
  • Gregory Lewis, Executive Director and CEO of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors United, states that “LGBT youth are more than twice as likely to experience homelessness than their straight and cisgender peers.”

According to the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA:

  • 40% of the homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBT.
  • 43% of clients served by drop-in centers identified as LGBT
  • 3% of streets outreach clients identified as LGBT.
  • 30% of clients utilizing housing programs identified as LGBT.

What’s going on?

LGBT youth face continued social stigma, discrimination and rejection by families.  The youth, especially trans people of color, face heightened risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation on the streets. Some commit suicide, some trade survival sex for drugs and warm beds.  It’s not a pretty picture!

With COVID-19, there is more tension in homes and less money as work hours are reduced. Yet, even with shelters, some LGBT shelters turn away homeless LGBT youth, particularly trans people of color who are particularly subject to violence on the streets.  The Salvation Army has been known to reject the LGBT population from its shelters due to the Church’s homophobic views.

Everyone has a right to safe housing.  Shelters, particularly those that receive taxpayer funds, should not engage in government sanctioned discrimination against LGBTQ people during their time of need. No one should have to fear losing social services based on their identity as an LGBTQ person.  Nevertheless, HUD ( The Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) is currently working to undo rules protecting transgender people from discrimination in homeless shelters and other HUD-funded services by making sure that people can access services consistent with their gender identity, rather than just their sex-assigned-at-birth.  Otherwise, homeless service providers to make determinations about if and how to house people based on their assumption of a person’s sex assigned at birth.

Three hundred anti-sexual violence and anti-domestic violence organizations, many of whom operate shelters, signed a joint statement in 2016 supporting nondiscrimination protections like the current Access Rule.  Hopefully, it won’t be rescinded.

http://true colorsunited.org/2020/07/01/joint-statement-on-the-equal-access-rule/.

There are youth shelters such as Ali Forney Center and Convenant House, but with Covid-19 and donations decreasing, it’s harder to get a bed and meals.

Help for LGBT Homeless

There are resources such as The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) https://www.nctsn.org that provides resources to help communities, families, educators, mental health and child welfare professionals and policy makers and advocates better understand and deal with homeless youth. The National Network for Youth (nn4y)https: NN4yyouth.org 

helps runaway, homeless, and other disconnected youth.  The programs include street-based services, emergency shelter and transitional living programs, a 24 hr. crisis line, a link to a database of more than 10,000 youth and family agencies.

Of course, the best way to keep your LGBT child off the street is to make your home a haven and to provide unconditional love so they are not living on the streets.  For more advice, see psychiatrist Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D. suggestions in When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know ( Sterling: 2016).

When Your Child is Gay

When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know

For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting as well as gay and lesbian content. For the past two years, Wesley has concentrated almost exclusively on the lesbian and gay community, specifically on advising straight parents of gay children on how to be better parents and raise happy, well-adjusted adults

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