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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 20, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 20
Sen. Patty Murray co-sponsors bill to combat LGBT youth homelessness
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Sen. Patty Murray co-sponsors bill to combat LGBT youth homelessness

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Senator Patty Murray will co-sponsor a bill to combat homelessness among LGBT youth.

The Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act was introduced by former presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on May 14.

The bill addresses the needs of young people living on the street and has specific provisions dealing with the problem of LGBT homelessness.

The total number of youth in the U.S. who become homeless or runaway each year may total 1.6 million.

According to studies by NGLTF, 20-40% of homeless youth are LGBT or gender-variant. In one study, NGLTF found that 26% of teens who came out to their parents or guardians were forced to leave home.

'I am proud to cosponsor this legislation that will help keep young people across America off the streets and in stable housing. This is especially important for LGBT youth who, unfortunately, face the prospect of homelessness at far higher rates than their peers,' Sen. Murray said in a statement to SGN.

The LGBT-specific provisions of the bill direct the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to create programs to improve family relationships for LGBT youth and decrease their rate of homelessness.

HHS is directed to run the programs for five years.

They are to include 'behavioral interventions' to decrease rejecting behaviors in families with LGBT youth, and assessment tools to identify LGBT youths at risk for rejection.

In addition, HHS would also be directed to create family education resources to help families learn about behavior that could place LGBT youth at risk, as well as alternative behavior to promote positive development.

In addition to setting up LGBT-specific programs at HHS, the measure also allows children to remain in foster care at least until they reach age 21, extends the timeframe for foster-care youth have to use federal independence training programs, and ensures that children in foster care receive the Social Security benefits for which they qualify due to the death of a parent or a disability.

'As a father,' Kerry said, 'it's a punch in the gut to imagine children living on the streets, but this year alone, one in 50 American kids will be homeless. There are common-sense reforms we can implement to help make things better for LGBT youth.'

The bill is also co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), and is now pending before the Senate Finance Committee.

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) is expected to introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

The bill is supported by 39 organizations, including the National Coalition for the Homeless, PFLAG, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and GLSEN.

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