Monday, November 21, 2011

Young, Gay, and Homeless

via NPR, by Margot Adler

A number of studies of homeless youth in big cities put forth a startling statistic: Depending on the study, somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of homeless youths identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

It's largely because gay youths are more often kicked out of their homes than straight youths. And even if they are not kicked out, they may feel so uncomfortable that they leave.

In New York City, nearly 4,000 young people are homeless every night — many of them gay.

Reaching Out To Homeless Youths

On the Christopher Street pier in Greenwich Village, where dozens of gay and transgender youths hang out, Carter Seabron and Elena Wood of Safe Horizon's Streetwork Project hand out snacks, condoms and information.

The organization sends out several nightly teams to find homeless youths.

"Would you like a snack?" Seabron and Wood ask. Oreos, Rice Krispies treats and chewy bars are the favorites.

They also give out information about Streetwork's drop-in centers, where young people can get showers, clothing and housing referrals.

Seabron, the outreach coordinator for the Streetwork Project, says that "for the most part, the majority of youth we see who identify as being homeless also identify as being LGBT."

Wood says not all of them are thrown out of their homes, although many are.
Margot Adler/NPR Tiffany Cocco (left to right), Jeremiah Beaverly, Carl Siciliano and Avi Bowie hang out at the Ali Forney Center in Manhattan.

"The parent might not say, 'You have to get out now,' like, 'I am kicking you out,' especially since that is illegal if they are under 18," she says. "It's a fine line between what is their choice and what is not."

Each homeless young person has a different story.

Jeremiah Beaverly grew up in Wisconsin and Illinois.

"The day after my 18th birthday this year, my adopted parent kicked me out," he says. "At the time, I was really infatuated with this guy, and she was listening to my phone calls. She started telling my family, 'He is this, he is that, he is gay,' and talking about me as if I wasn't part of the family."

Beaverly was lucky — he had friends whose parents were more accepting. He stayed with them until he finished high school.

Now, in New York City, he is in emergency housing — only available for 90 days.

"I went from shelters and couch-surfing to my own bed," he says. "I haven't slept in my own bed for almost a year, so it is really nice."

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