Homeless LGBT Youth the Focus of "Weekend of Prayer and Learning"

Over 30 clergy across New York City will be preaching about homeless LGBT youth in their houses of worship this weekend, January 20-22. The preaching exercise is a part of the Weekend of Prayer and Learning to educate people of faith about youth homelessness, particularly among LGBT youth.

The Weekend of Prayer and Learning is being organized by Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) in New York City. CBST has recently opened Shelter of Peace, which was designed to create awareness and inspire advocacy among people of faith regarding the high numbers of homeless youth in New York City without adequate shelter. Because of the disproportionate numbers of homeless youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, CBST emphasizes the specific problems faced by homeless LGBT youth. Through outreach to other communities of faith, Shelter of Peace now corresponds with over 100 congregations throughout New York City that are committed to staying well-informed on the events impacting this population of homeless youth and are ready to step up, speak up, and show up when the call is made.

Shelter of Peace has been a leader in encouraging over 30 other churches, synagogues, and places of worship to include themes of LGBT youth homelessness in this weekend’s sermons. They have asked clergy to illuminate to their congregations the plight of the homeless LGBT youth in New York City and the call for people of faith to alleviate youth homelessness in their sermons on the weekend of January 20 through 22.

The Weekend of Prayer and Learning was partially inspired by the release of Gov. Cuomo’s budget, which maintains the drastic cuts to the program from past years. The effort will ensure that tens of thousands of New Yorkers of all faiths are hearing the same call to provide tangible support for homeless youth. Congregations are also asking members to sign a petition calling for additional beds for LGBT homeless youth.

RoseAnn Hermann, a member of CBST and one of the leaders behind the Weekend of Prayer and Learning said, “On the heels of Martin Luther King Day, shouldn’t we be inspired to do what he would have done. We are asking everyone to tell their congregations that they least they can do is sign the petition to ask the governor to support homeless youth.” She stressed the importance of having leadership from communities of faith. “These children have been kicked out of their homes, where they should feel the most secure. We, as people of faith, need to take them in and show them the loving-kindness they deserve.”

The Forest Hills Jewish Center is also participating in the Weekend of Prayer and Learning. Shabbat services will include the bat mitzvah of a young woman who is incorporating the themes of homeless youth as a part of her bat mitzvah speech. Participation is broad and diverse, with congregations all around New York City, including Fort Washington Collegiate Church, Town and Village Synagogue, Congregation Beth Elohim, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Riverside Church, and Unity Fellowship Church.

GLAAD highly encourages additional clergy and worshiping communities to participate in this vital program. Preaching has the power to move people to take action. GLAAD joins the Shelter of Peace Network to ask clergy to make their sermon about the topic of youth homelessness. Short of that, we ask you to at least take a few minutes to join with your fellow members of Shelter of Peace and make your congregation aware of the problem and your desire to have them participate in the solution.  Additionally, GLAAD asks the media to continue to lift up stories around LGBT youth homelessness and the efforts being undertaken to address it.