LGBTQ Homeless Youth council meets with Congressional reps
LGBTQ Homeless Youth council meets with Congressional reps
On October 3, 40 nonprofit directors, civil right advocates, policy analysts, and youth advocates from the National Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) Homeless Youth will convene in Washington, DC to discuss their 2009 goals for reducing LGBTQ youth homelessness before meeting with their Congressional representatives to increase awareness of the need for more federal funding for housing and services for this disproportionately large population.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in Room 2255 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Homeless youth are typically defined as unaccompanied youth aged 12 to 24 years who do not have familial support and who lack a regular and suitable nighttime residence. The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that over 2 million youth experience at least one episode of homelessness each year, with hundreds of thousands becoming street dependent.

Seven different studies of homeless youth in the U.S. have concluded that approximately 20 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ. This is disproportionately high when compared to the 10 percent of LGBTQ youth in the general population. A conservative estimate finds 400,000 LGBTQ youth experiencing an episode of homelessness each year.

Youth consistently report severe family conflict as the primary reason for their homelessness. LGBTQ youth, in particular, may face abandonment and rejection from parents and guardians due their sexual orientation or gender identity.

While some reunify with their families or find alternative placements, histories of physical abuse, sexual exploitation and abandonment lead to street survival for thousands of LGBTQ youth each year, where studies show that they are likely to experience an average of 7.4 more acts of sexual violence than their heterosexual peers and are more likely to report being solicited to exchange sex for money, food, drugs, shelter, and clothing.

Many of those attempting to better their situation will be denied shelter, housing and assistance, since there is a national shortage due to a lack of federal funding. Last year, federal funding resulted in over 660,000 street contacts to homeless youth nationally, yet less than 10 percent actually received entrance into a shelter or housing program.

"In order to avoid exploitation on the street, youth who become homeless need shelter and counseling to meet their immediate needs. They then need help reunifying with their families, and if that is not possible, access to a stable, permanent place to live with support services," said Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Since its creation in 2007, the Council has educated Congress and the Administration on the increase in appropriations needed to expand the national supply of shelter and housing to homeless youth through the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. Due in part to the Council's efforts, The House of Representatives proposed a $3 million increase for the program in their FY2009 budget.

The Council has also established the National Best Practice Recommendations for Homeless Youth Service Providers - the first comprehensive guide providing recommendations to nonprofit organizations on how to inclusively and effectively serve LGBTQ youth.

"Unfortunately, providing housing, shelter and services for homeless youth has not been enough of a priority for federal policymakers." Roman said. "And before the creation of the National Advisory Council, there was even less awareness of the needs of this particular subset of LGBTQ homeless youth. I'm glad that a strong partnership of advocates has finally united to push the issue of youth homelessness to the forefront of the new administration and Congress' agenda in 2009."

The Council's goals for 2009 will likely include creating recommendations for advocacy on federal legislation and appropriations; creating recommendations for reforms in the nonprofit field to recognize the needs of LGBTQ homeless youth; increasing training and technical assistance to community-based and faith-based organizations serving homeless youth; and expanding the communication network among LGBTQ homeless youth field leaders.

The Alliance will continue to work cooperatively with the LGBTQ advocacy community, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, and Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) to implement a national policy agenda to end LGBTQ youth homelessness.

A National Alliance to End Homelessness press release