May 18, 2007

Dealing with Gay Youth Homelessness

From the New York Times:

One girl said she started living on the streets after her mother beat her for dressing like a boy. Another said she ran away from home after her father pulled a gun on her for hanging around with so many “tomboys.” A third said she left home after a family acquaintance raped her because she was a lesbian and he wanted to “straighten her out.”

But gathered at Ruth’s House, a 10-bed emergency shelter for gay homeless youths here in east Detroit, they all said that for the first time they felt safe.

Ruth’s House is one of a small number of shelters for gay youths that have opened around the nation in the past four years, reflecting an increasing awareness among child welfare advocates of the disproportionately high number of gay youths in the homeless population and the special problems they face.

Five years ago, such shelters were rare, but now there are more than 25 nationwide.

Many experts estimate that while gay men and lesbians make up 3 percent to 5 percent of the general population, more than 20 percent of homeless youths under age 21 in many urban areas are gay, according to recent surveys of street youths and shelter workers published in peer-reviewed academic journals, and a study released in January by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Once on the streets, advocates and researchers said, gay youths may be avoiding group homes, shelters and the foster care system because they are afraid they will face violence and harassment.

Some gay youths have said they were beaten in full view of shelter staff members who did nothing to help. Others said they were forced to wear distinctly colored jumpsuits so they could be identified easily in the shelter population.

Apparently there are homophobes among the homeless and those who work at shelters. Amazingly, there are places where GLBT people aren't even treated as equals to those without their own home.

Click here to read more from the New York Times article.

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