Many homeless LGBT youth were rejected by their families because of religious homophobia, whether or not the families were active churchgoers. LGBT youth are not safe in traditional homeless shelters, and have special social service needs, especially transgender youth. Laura Hughes tells us of the challenges and rewards of ministry with LGBT homeless youth. Trinity Place Shelter, a ministry of Trinity Lutheran Church in New York City, is a scrappy 10 bed long term shelter which provides homeless LGBT youth with job training, social services, counseling, and a path to housing independence. They could use your support, both in prayers and donations. What are the ways your congregation could reach out to LGBT homeless youth in your area?
All these factors — race, recession, unemployment, sexuality and more (including drug use and incarceration rates) are deeply intertwined. The result is a vicious cycle of perpetual poverty for far too many youth in this city. And a great many of these youth are LGBT. For out of everything mentioned above, LGBT youth in Detroit are possibly at the intersection of more risk factors for poverty than any other group: race, child poverty, residing in a city mired in debt and able to afford little in the way of social services, and sexuality. On top of the aforementioned links between poverty and sexuality, homophobia remains far too prevalent within the African American community, with often brutal consequences for LGBT youth like Crystal who grow up in already impoverished homes.
Thus, many LGBT youth in the city are either forced onto the streets by family members unable to accept their sexuality, or run away to flee abuse. And once on the streets, they are at far greater risk of depression, suicide, substance abuse, violence and more. Many must turn to sex work in order to survive.
At the Ruth Ellis Center, we are doing everything we can to get these youth off the streets, operating a shelter, a drop-in center and a street outreach program. But there are far more homeless LGBT youth in the city than we can serve at any one time. And particularly in the winter, when temperatures regularly reach single digits here, youth must stay anywhere they can find shelter — in abandoned houses filled with animal feces, and on the stairwells of apartment buildings, to name some examples. As a starting point, we’ve launched an “End the Chill” crowd-funding campaign, allowing anyone to donate toward an additional warming place for these youth.
We at the Ruth Ellis Center are on the front lines of the intersections of poverty, race and homophobia. In Detroit, and around the country, thousands of these youth, the victims of social and economic circumstance, must sleep on the streets every night. We cannot have a national conversation about poverty without including youth homelessness, and we cannot have a conversation about LGBT issues without addressing poverty and the terrible impact it has on many of our youth. The time has come to start a new conversation. And that will be an enormous step forward toward a future where no youth is forced to sleep on the street because of who he or she is.
Read the full story at the Huffington Post.
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth: An epidemic of homelessness (pdf), National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce