Of New York's 1.1 million public school students, one in 12 are homeless. Many live doubled up with extended family or are temporarily housed in hotels or motels. But more than 23,000 live in family shelters on any given day.
Many of you know me as a follower of Jesus, and those of you that have been paying attention, also know me as a "straight ally." To me, I actually believe both of those descriptions of me are connected.
LGBTQ teen homelessness is an often-overlooked aspect of the national struggle for equality. Of the nearly 2 million teens affected by homelessness each year, an estimated 40 percent of them identify as LGBTQ.
Imagine she retreats to a shelter where aggressive, belligerent, or intoxicated people accost her, make snide comments about her child, and multiply the fears that first led her to the shelter. Should she stay? Would you?
Last month I recalled the story of Antwone Fisher, who was informed upon aging out of foster care at 18 years old that he was on his own. He was directed to a nearby homeless shelter, and left to figure out the rest himself. That continues to happen every day across the United States.
I have been talking with homeless kids from all over the country, asking them to help us understand what it means to be left on the streets, asking them to give witness to what they endure. I ask you to look into their traumatized eyes and listen with me to their heartbreaking testimonies.
From February to May of 2013, one local youth service provider turned away at least 150 unaccompanied minor children due to lack of emergency shelter space, many of whom also had children of their own.
These youth want to remain invisible. They fear being stigmatized or bullied; they also fear that they will be taken into custody. Additionally, their psychological development is at the stage where they genuinely believe that they are able to take care of themselves, somehow, someway.