The LGBTQ homeless youth community in the United States is increasing more and more every year. Those who identified themselves as homosexuals have faced many obstacles, starting from being neglected from their own community as well as being shamed by their families. It is a problem that is being overlooked and needs to be solved. There has to be more government involvement in helping the homeless shelters specifically for the LGBT youth and decrease the number of youth homeless on the streets.
LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) individuals face a particular set of challenges, both in becoming homeless as well as when they become homeless. LGBT persons face social stigma, discrimination, and often rejection by their families, which adds to the physical and mental strains and challenges that all homeless people must struggle with. On top of all that LGBT individuals experiencing homelessness often have a higher risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation and usually have nowhere to go. Transgender people are particularly at physical risk due to a lack of acceptance and are often turned away from shelters and in some places, signs have been posted letting them know that they do not accommodate transgenders.
According to the Williams Institute, 40% of the homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBT, 43% of clients served by drop-in centers identified as LGBT, 30% of street outreach clients identified as LGBT, and 30% of clients utilizing housing programs identified as LGBT. This is a very high portion compared to about only 7% of people identifying as gay in the U.
LGBT youth are one of the largest populations among homeless youth but least studied. Their reasons for being homeless are often challenges within the homes and are not something that can be fixed with a policy. Although running away from home or being forced out are the most common ways for these youths to end up in a homeless shelter, another very common reason is being kicked out of schools and lack of education. LGBT students at all levels of schooling face difficulties related to their identity. These problems stem from peers, administrators and teachers, organizations, and within themselves. A major issue facing students is bullying, including being called homophobic slurs. Students who report having teachers who stop LGBT-related harassment and bullying feel safer in their schools and also have better educational outcomes when they report having positive feelings about their teachers, yet is it common for many students to hear teachers or administrators use some of the slurs or ignoring the harassment. When LGBT students do not feel comfortable or safe at their school they tend to skip classes and end up picking up bad habits like drugs, drinking, and causing trouble. Not only are they causing trouble but also missing out on learning and having the skills to get a proper job in society. Even if the LGBT student is not bullied at school many are homeless due to being kicked out by their own parents and live in shelters which brings stress. LGBT youth are victims even at the homeless shelters and in the streets making them more susceptible to depression, traumas, and even suicide. The other effects cause many LGBT students to drop out and pursue getting a General Education Development (GED). Even trying to get a GED is more difficult for LGBT members in homeless shelters.
In the past the LGBT has faced even more criticism and has had more obstacles than today. Around the late 1970’2 and early 1980’s the AIDS crisis occurred where AIDS was first starting to infect and spread. This was one of the biggest obstacles in the gay community because people not only saw the gays as homosexuals but also as a group of people who had casual and unprotected sex which made the gay community less acceptable. During the AIDS crisis over 324,000 people died in less than a 10-year span. This also contributed to homelessness because when a person was diagnosed with HIV they were more likely to fall into depression because there was no cure or prevention for HIV in the 1980’s, meaning you were most likely going to die. There were protests and organizations for the LGBT community but they have based a lot of AIDS patients and the gay population with AIDS. Even before the AIDS crisis, there were protests for equal rights. Most of the problems when it comes to LGBT homelessness are still not acknowledged and not seen as a big problem. It is hard to know that a lot of the homeless are in the LGBT community and were forced there because of their sexual orientation.
In order to understand more about the LGBT community, I volunteered at Billy Defrank LGBT Community Center. This organization focuses on helping the LGBT community come together and holds fun events like Bingo as well as holding counseling sessions like drug addiction. Billy Defranks is located 938 The Alameda, San Jose, CA 95126 and is very nice and welcoming. I volunteered last Friday as an event helper and although I was done fairly quickly setting few things for game night, I was able to listen to some of the LGBT members who have faced and still facing depression. This experience was one of the most mind-opening experiences I have had. There were about 20 people there and many shared their stories and experiences. I thought this was very interesting because everyone had different backgrounds but had very similar experiences. The biggest recurring theme I found was that they were not accepted by their parents when coming out and were forced to move or leave. I believed that this event was very helpful for the people who went because it allowed them to understand that they were not the only ones that were going through the pain. The sense of community was really encouraging and looked like it made everyone open up about what they were going through. I would have loved to ask one of them what they thought about the place or if they thought this organization really did help, but unfortunately asking that question was not in my mind. The Billy Defrank community center from my experience was being run very effectively and efficiently. I am not sure what kind of problems they face as an organization, but when I looked at their calendar for events it did seem like it was very packed on some days and could overlap if they were not efficient. The only thing I would do differently if I were to run the organization would be to space out some of the events and also get some kind of event where they would go to other LGBT organizations to help out. I think doing that would bring in more people to the community and help more out.
Homelessness is defined as having no fixed place to sleep at night. This includes people staying in motels until their money runs out, those staying with friends, those staying in shelters, and those sleeping inside or out whatever space they can find to protect themselves. The number of homeless people has been growing and it has become a serious problem in our society. The LGBTQ homelessness is increasing every single day. It is a crucial topic and should reach out for more government fundings towards homeless shelters specifically for the LGBT youth and decrease the number amount of youth homeless on our streets. Every day, thousands of youths are growing up trying to discover themselves and their sexuality. If that isn’t already overwhelming enough many youths find themselves being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transexual and thousands of us in our country still cannot accept those who are LGBTQ and many from their own family members. It is not easy for a child to expose themselves to society and announce their sexuality. Many youths are bullied, discriminated against, looked down upon, harassed and because of this many suffer from trauma and can cause to fall into substance use, sexual exploitation, and suicide. Many LGBTQ adolescents have a higher percentage rate of having to fall into these than heterosexuals do. The problems are real and throughout history, we have seen changes and society has come a long way, but there is a lot of work still to be done. The experiences I had with volunteering showed me that the organizations really do help people who are in need of a safe place. With help from the government and others willing to donate, big changes could come to help the youth get off the streets.