I hadn’t intended to post over the holiday, but when I wanted to share this. I’ve written before about the homelessness epidemic among gay youth before and the special programs some communities are creating to meet their needs. The problem hasn’t gotten better, but special programs and shelters for homeless LGBT youth can make a difference.
One girl said she started living on the streets after her mother beat her for dressing like a boy. Another said she ran away from home after her father pulled a gun on her for hanging around with so many “tomboys.” A third said she left home after a family acquaintance raped her because she was a lesbian and he wanted to “straighten her out.”
But gathered at Ruth’s House, a 10-bed emergency shelter for gay homeless youths here in east Detroit, they all said that for the first time they felt safe.
Ruth’s House is one of a small number of shelters for gay youths that have opened around the nation in the past four years, reflecting an increasing awareness among child welfare advocates of the disproportionately high number of gay youths in the homeless population and the special problems they face.
… Once on the streets, advocates and researchers said, gay youths may be avoiding group homes, shelters and the foster care system because they are afraid they will face violence and harassment.
Some gay youths have said they were beaten in full view of shelter staff members who did nothing to help. Others said they were forced to wear distinctly colored jumpsuits so they could be identified easily in the shelter population.
“What that means is that these youth are an extremely vulnerable population,” said Jamie Van Leeuwen, a doctoral candidate at the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado.
But nothing’s more effective than hearing the kids tell their own stories.
I’ve been knocking around on web video sites this weekend, and I was on Veoh when I came across this video. It’s part of a series called My Address: A Look at Gay Youth Homelessness.
Watching the videos I was struck by two things: how many parents will throw their kids out of the house or drive them out because they LGBT, and how many of the youth in these videos were youth of color (Black, Latino, etc.). Virtually all of them were.
The woman who produced the series had this to say when she posted about it.
To begin to investigate this issue, I went to New York City with my friend and director, Gigi Nicolas. We visited the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI)—the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit social service, education and advocacy organization dedicated to serving LGBTQ youth. As we quickly learned, homelessness is a difficult topic to explore—mainly because the kids who deal with it are largely untraceable, moving from couch to couch or shelter to shelter, living beneath the radar. Through HMI, however, we met some amazing young people who’ve either struggled with housing, been a part of “the system” or have known people who have. Their stories gave us an intimate look at homelessness and the multitude of related issues LGBTQ youth face everyday.
Unfortunately, we only got to spend a few days filming with the HMI youth and counselors, so our project merely scratches at the surface of our country’s systemic and nationwide “epidemic” of gay youth homelessness. We hope that our efforts in New York will serve as springboard to a feature documentary in which we can give this topic the full attention it deserves.