Homeless LGBTQ youth: An ever-growing concern

Homelessness among LGBTQ youth is seeing an increase. AP photo by Michel Spingler.

by Victoria Backle
Staff Writer

There are many issues that the LGBTQ community faces. But in 2017, we move forward into an unpredictable era. With Obama’s two terms in office, the community thrived and dismantled stigma throughout the nation. We overcame, we conquered and we saw a beam of light at the end of the tunnel.

Although we have seen many successes over the last few years, there are issues in the community that still seem to be ignored. For one, homelessness among LGBTQ youth has only gotten worse over the last decade.

According to the Huffington Post, there are less than five hundred beds in the entire country for the hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ youth who have ended up on the streets. In 2016 alone, homeless shelters catering to the community saw an increase of twenty percent more youth.

Many shelters which don’t specialize in LGBTQ youth have seen an increase as well. In a study conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA, they found that over forty percent of all homeless youth identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Of those people, forty-three percent were forced out of their homes based on their sexual identity or gender expression.

The rate at which LGBTQ teens and pre-teens commit suicide is staggering – they have about sixty percent higher rates than their heterosexual peers. On top of the struggle of “coming out”, many of these teens are forced to deal with homelessness, victimization, disownment and sexual assault.

Samantha Ruggles is the Executive Assistant at LIKEME Lighthouse in Kansas City, a program that provides counseling, education and referrals for LGBTQ people.

“Going forward as a community center, we are revamping our resource referrals specific to LGBTQ homeless referrals,” said Ruggles. “Recently we brought on a new volunteer with background in urban planning. They work with a local hospital outreach program to get homeless individuals into permanent housing. This is an on-going issue and one we are proactively addressing.”

Ruggles also stated that many of the shelters in the area are at full capacity.

There has been an apparent need for attention on this issue over the course of Obama’s presidency, but it did not make its way to the Oval Office. Now, only a few weeks into the new presidency, we will face an administration which has expressed no interest in aiding the LGBTQ community.

Carl Siciliano is the Executive Director of Ali Forney Center, the largest organization in the U.S. to offer housing to LGBTQ youth. The increased numbers of homeless kids had given him reason to fear that the next president will give nothing to LGBTQ youth in need.

“Given the relentless anti-LGBT beliefs of [Trump’s] cabinet members, we have to anticipate that policies enacted to protect LGBT people, and particularly transgender people, in federally funded shelters will be rescinded,” Siciliano stated to the Huffington Post.

There is no easy answer or solution to the epidemic. Research, education and proactive effort are the only forces we have to inform parents and educators of the problem at hand.

While many LGBTQ children are being left to their own devices, the organizations and allies must stay vigilant and aware of the changes that may happen around us in the next four years.

Copyright 2017 The Gayly – March 22, 2017 @ 7:45 a.m.