Queer Corner: Homeless Youth



Recently, New York City decided to cut 6 million dollars out of the 12 million dol­lar budget allocated for Lesbian, Gay, Bisex­ual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) youth homeless shelters. This is a very serious issue because in the United States between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify at LG­BTQ and 26 percent of those people have been forcefully kicked out of their homes. Homelessness by itself is very difficult to deal with because of the fact that homeless people are alone, struggling and fighting to survive. Unfortunately even more issues arise when you are homeless and LGBTQ.

In their quest for a home, homeless queer youth turn to shelters that are supposed to pro­vide safety and comfort. Unfortunately, many LGBTQ youth have experienced verbal abuse as well as physical abuse from both staff mem­bers and other homeless youth. According to an article by Nicholas Ray, homeless LGBTQ people are more likely to experience mental health problems, partake in risky sexual behav­ior, use drugs and even commit crimes. They are also prone to abuse from people in the street as well as from people in the shelters. They are harassed, isolated and at times targeted. There have been reports of transgender youth having issues with homeless shelter systems because of the fact that many divide their facilities into two, for males and females, which puts those who are transgender in an uncomfortable po­sition and makes them even more likely to be ostracized. Although this is not the case for all shelters and does not describe the experiences of all homeless LGBTQ youth, this is still a real issue that exists and is not well known or cared about, as is exhibited by the budget cuts. These institutions have been helping these people with already stretched resources and now that their funds have been cut in half, you can only imagine how much harder their job is going to be. They need more support. Harassment for LGBTQ people, especially in shelters, is not new, and these budget cuts will only make things worse.

Abuse directed toward people in the LG­BTQ community is not uncommon and the re­cent six suicides just show how much worse this issue has gotten. Those people felt the need to take their own lives because they were physical­ly and verbally abused for being true to them­selves. It’s a disturbing reality and at this point something really has to be done. We are all hu­mans and should support each other; there re­ally is no reason why people should be homeless or dead because of one of their identities.

What can you do? Facebook statuses are great when you want to vocalize your support, but what really matters is the things that you do daily. For example, help your friends understand why it’s not okay to use the words “gay” or “fag” in casual conversation. Please stop the gay jokes. If you really care about stopping the discrimi­nation, the first step is to have a talk with your friends about the misuse of certain words. Be open-minded, non-judgmental and accepting of all people no matter their gender or sexual orien­tation. Educate yourself and others about current events, history, activist work or anything you just don’t understand. Get involved, go to LGBTQ events, visit LGBTQ initiates, and become an ally! Try your hardest to be aware and actually do something to help the community and all of the wonderful people in it.