Tuesday, April 24, 2007

An Epidemic Of Homelessness Among GLBT Teens

A study by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has uncovered shocking numbers about teen-age homelessness in America. Between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify themselves as gay, lesbian or transgender, while fewer than 4% of the general population identifies themselves within one of these categories. The study explains why so many GLBT youths wind up homeless and the ill-treatment they receive in shelters designed to protect them.

Family conflict is the primary reason so many GLBT youths end up homeless. At least half of those studied reported a negative experience when they came out to their parents. Another 26% were kicked out of their homes. Another one-third experienced a violent physical assault as a consequence of coming out. GLBT homelessness leads to serious mental health issues, substance abuse problems, dangerous "sex for survival" conduct, and general victimization everywhere they go from an intolerant society, including those institutions designed to protect them the report found.

The study found juvenile justice facilities to be filled with violently homophobic inmates. GLBT youth complain of being harassed and raped by both inmates and staff, particularly the gay male youth. As one respondent described it, staff members think that “[if] a youth is gay, they want to have sex with all the other boys, so they did not protect me from unwanted sexual advances.” Making matters worse has been efforts by the Bush administration to promote government-funded, faith-based groups, who morally oppose homosexuality, to run juvenile justice programs. "A number of faith-based providers oppose legal and social equality for LGBT people, which raises serious questions about whether LGBT homeless youth can access services in a safe and nurturing environment," the report says. "If an organization’s core belief is that homosexuality is wrong, that organization (and its committed leaders and volunteers) may not respect a client’s sexual orientation."

Shelters for homeless youth often provide no refuge for GLBT youth. The report describes horrific conditions at such shelters:

The majority of existing shelters and other care systems are not providing safe and effective services to LGBT homeless youth. For example, in New York City, more than 60 percent of beds for homeless youth are provided by Covenant House, a facility where LGBT youth report that they have been threatened, belittled and abused by staff and other youth because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

At one residential placement facility in Michigan, LGBT teens, or those suspected of being LGBT, were forced to wear orange jumpsuits to alert staff and other residents. At another transitional housing placement, staff removed the bedroom door of an out gay youth, supposedly to ward off any homosexual behavior. The second bed in the room was left empty and other residents were warned that if they misbehaved they would have to share the room with the “gay kid.”

LGBT homeless youth at the Home for Little Wanderers in Massachusetts have reported being kicked out of other agencies when they revealed their sexual orientation or gender identity. Many also said that the risks inherent to living in a space that was not protecting them made them think that they were better off having unsafe sex and contracting HIV because they would then be eligible for specific housing funds reserved for HIV-positive homeless people in need orientation or gender identity and may expose LGBT youth to discriminatory treatment.
The report has a number of recommendations it makes to help deal with the epidemic level of homelessness among GLBT youth. One that jumped out right away was the problem the youths have in accessing social and health services without the consent of an adult. If you're on the street because your parents kicked you out of the house, it's a little hard to get parental consent. Not surprisingly, the report recommends specific housing programs for homeless GLBT youth. On the topic of adoption, the report recommends repealing laws which prohibit single and partnered GLBTs from serving as adoptive or foster parents. It's sort of a vicious cycle when you think about it. We have a puritan, religious culture teaching intolerance, which leads parents to throw their kids in the street because of their sexual orientation, and then we outlaw the people most understanding of their kids' plight from assuming the parental responsibility their natural parents abandoned. There must be a Christian message in there somewhere that people are missing.

Locally, I've not noticed any reporting in the mainstream media about how GLBT youth are treated in shelters and the Marion Co. juvenile system. I've heard anecdotal evidence of gay youths complaining about the intolerance of the faith-based organization providing services to the Marion Co. juvenile system. Indiana Youth Group, a not-for-profit organization, provides a drop-in and program facility for GLBT youth, but it does not function as a shelter. I attempted to contact Jill Thomas, Program Coordinator for IYG, to comment on the report's findings and any efforts which it might be undertaking to deal with the problem locally, but she did not return my phone call.

A big hat tip to Donna P. for passing along this study to me.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Which shows that troubled youth need crisis intervention...

...and that crisis intervention is needed to stop perversion and abominable sin.

Wilson46201 said...

Self-righteous pseudo-religious fundamentalists encourage the perversion and abomination of encouraging teenage prostitution by hatefully despising and rejecting gay teenagers out of families onto the streets. The homobigots holler NO NEW TAXES to allow our youth to live under bridges or in ratholes of dwellings, selling their bodies to survive. As Christ said: "As ye do to the least of these, so ye do to me!"

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Wilson: There is no need for new taxes, but crisis intervention for those who need it, so they do not explore evil, sin, drugs, prostitution, perversion....as an escape!

Give them counseling and crisis intervention.

Anonymous said...

Yo, Wilson: Dial 211!!!

Wilson46201 said...

I have known since I was in grade school that I was gay. I went to high school in Shelbyville in the 1950s in the most homophobic atmosphere imaginable and yet I found a loving boyfriend in my class. Like all teenagers, we did it like rabbits too. I've never seen a shrink or taken medications -- never tried suicide - I'm blessed - I remain as gay as a day in May.

Thanks be that ignorant and bigoted folk did not destroy my life with their fearmongering of perversion and abominable sin.

I'm left-handed too - centuries ago religious zealots would have condemned that as proof of devil-possession. To the religious haters and fearmongers I say: Retro Satanas! (Satan, get thee behind me!) Begone, foul spirits!

Wilson46201 said...

P.S. My life experience is backed up by the U.S. Supreme Court and by the unanimous medical profession nowadays. It's OK to be gay. The fearmongers rely on ignorance and misinformation to deceive and pervert people. Shameful!

Wilson46201 said...

Before the anonymous fearmongers haul out some holy book or another to justify whatever crap they are peddling: there's an old folk saying that applies: "The Devil quotes Scripture to his own ends."

Anonymous said...
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Wilson46201 said...

ahh -- the old "homosexual child molester" fairytale used to harass LGBT folk. Getting really desperate now for lies, slanders and deception, anonymous nobody?

Anonymous said...
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Wilson46201 said...

Both of us were 15 at the time and it was quite, quite consensual. You know how teenagers are!

Amusingly, you are getting incredibly desperate now! But keep it up! You are so revealing of the idiocies and hatreds of the rightwing nutterballs that still infest the world.

Jeff Newman said...

Wow, I read those comments before Gary zapped them, and you're right Wilson. They're very revealing of how the homophobic right-wing thinks.

You and Gary disagree fairly often, and I have disagreed with both of you on occasion. But one thing we agree on: we're sick of being insulted by these bigots.

To zapped hateful Anonymouse: you don't know me, you don't my life, you don't know my children, you don't know my family. No true Christian could possibly be as mean-spirited as you.

Anonymous said...
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donna said...

Advance Indiana, thanks for posting this! Your summary of the report was excellent. I see it sparked a lot of emotion as it should. However, I am disappointed in those (the deleted comments) that chose to react in an unproductive way. I did not get an opportunity to read the deleted comments. Were they refuting the authenticity of the statistics or just viciously hatefully attacking? This is what is really sad about our society and those “Christians” (not all “Christians”) who react with hate rather than being genuinely concerned for these GLBT children. I think the only way things are ever going to change is through continued public education through efforts of groups like National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

I really would like to find out how this translates in terms of statistics for Indiana. I am disappointed that Jill Thomas did not return your call. You might try going to the next in chain of command, perhaps someone on the board? I would think they would be concerned about this study and it’s possible correlation to Indiana GLBT youth?