Preparing For An Emergency: Protecting Homeless LGBT Youth During The Trump Presidency

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The living conditions for homeless LGBT youth were deplorable before President Trump. Right now, at the end of Obama's presidency, most homeless LGBT youths have nowhere safe to call home. In the USA there are fewer than 500 shelter beds dedicated to a homeless LGBT youth population that is estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands.

Numbers can seem cold and unfeeling compared to reality. Homeless kids with nowhere to stay are cold too, but they definitely feel it.

In the real world, when there are not nearly enough beds for homeless kids, you see desperate stuff. LGBT young people come to the Ali Forney Center after having survived in some desperate conditions. It is a hard to listen to a teenager tell you about sleeping in unheated abandoned buildings, in forests, in subways, on rooftops, in pay toilets.

It is hard to listen to them describe the hardship of being out in the cold, hard to hear how terrified they are; terrified of their vulnerability sleeping in public settings, often too afraid to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time. It's harder still to listen to many talk about their feelings of worthlessness, to hear how they struggle with their parents' refusal to love them because of their being LGBT, how they struggle to cope with having been cast out to the streets as though they are utterly without human value.

The homeless LGBT youth crisis is getting worse. At the Ali Forney Center, the nation's largest organization providing housing and supportive services to homeless LGBT youths, the numbers of young people coming to us for help surged in 2016. While in 2015 we saw 1,200 youths, in 2016 we will see close to 1,500 young people, an increase of 20 percent. Other homeless LGBT youth providers are also reporting ever-increasing need. For example, Rick Westbrook of Lost-n-Found Youth, a center for homeless LGBT youths in Atlanta, Georgia, reports that in the last year the number of visits they are receiving has exploded, growing from 300 to over 525 per month.

And now we wait to see what policies the Trump Administration will propose for homeless youth. Given the relentless anti-LGBT beliefs of his cabinet members, we have to anticipate that policies enacted to protect LGBT people, and particularly transgender people, in federally funded shelters will be rescinded, thus making an already violent and frightening system for LGBT young people even more inaccessible. Furthermore, we are preparing for the possibility that the grossly inadequate federal funding for homeless youth will likely be cut. And we anticipate a return to the policies of the last Republican presidency, when LGBT youth organizations were frozen out of federal funding. At the Ali Forney Center we fear that over the next three years we will likely lose over $1 Million in federal funding.

It is urgently clear that with this new administration, homeless LGBT youths will need the support of our community and our allies more than ever before. They will need us to support the precious programs which offer them safe shelter, and affirm their worth and value as LGBT young people. They will need lifelines of protection where they can heal from the trauma of rejection and homelessness and rebuild their lives. The Ali Forney Center gratefully welcomes any support to help us continue our mission of housing and healing homeless LGBT youths. And we encourage you to support programs for homeless LGBT young people in your local areas.

We have prepared case studies that demonstrate what our young people suffer in their homes, what they endure in the streets, and the profound healing that can occur when they are provided with homes where they can be supported and accepted for who they are. (Names have been changed to protect their privacy). Reading these can help anyone understand why we must defend programs for homeless LGBT youth in the time of Trump.

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Homeless for the Holidays 2016