An article published yesterday by NBC News titled "Left Behind: LGBT Homeless Youth Struggle to Survive on the Streets" details the experiences of homeless LGBT youth in New York City. Despite a staggering 500,000 unaccompanied children and teens experiencing homelessness in the US each year, there are only 350 shelter beds in the country that are specifically dedicated to LGBT youth. However, homeless youth are disproportionately LGBT; around 5 percent of the overall youth population identify as LGBT, but upwards of 40% of those who are homeless are LGBT.
The NBC News article by Miranda Leitsinger uncovers some of the dangers homeless LGBT youth face on a daily basis. Often thrown out of their homes or fleeing due to lack of family acceptance, LGBT teens living on the streets become victims of violence, rape, theft, and even HIV. A 19-year-old transgender girl who goes by the name Diamond told Leitsinger, "This life, it gets depressing."
Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center, the nation's largest shelter for LGBT youth, said, "It's hard for me to imagine a worse and more harmful expression of homophobia in our time than the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of kids who are being rejected by their families and put out onto the streets." The Ali Forney Center recently teamed up with the National Coalition for the Homeless to launch the National Campaign for Youth Shelter, a movement to prioritize the protection of homeless youth across the country. GLAAD joined LGBT heroes and activists at the LGBT Rally for Homeless Youth to help kick off the campaign in June.
A documentary exploring the crisis of youth homelessness in New York City is currently in production. The documentary film Road to Home will delve into the stories of six homeless LGBT teens struggling to survive on the streets, and focus on how the Ali Forney Center is assisting these teens and getting them back on their feet.
But on top of beds and shelter, LGBT young adults need family acceptance and support. Dr. Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, stressed that according to a study by the project, youth rejected by their families are more than eight times likely to have attempted suicide and nearly six times as likely to report depression. Ryan told Leitsinger, "It's so important to help families understand that they can support that LGBT adolescent even if they think that being gay or transgender is wrong."
According to Leitsinger, despite gains for the LGBT community in recent years, such as increased support for same-sex marriage and increasing amounts of LGBT celebrities and public figures coming out, LGBT youth homelessness has worsened. Her article brings attention to the fact that shelter and family support are crucial if we are to see an end to this youth homelessness crisis.
Read the full article here.