I watched a recording of a PBS show about homelessness in St. Louis, MO, the other day. One of the things they talked about was youth homelessness, and it was mentioned that 40% of the homeless youth in St. Louis identified as being LBGT. I thought this was shocking, considering that LGBT youths constitute only about 7% of the entire youth population.
I attended a Youth Summit in Reno, NV, yesterday. This was kick-off event for an initiative to end youth homelessness in Reno in two years. It is part of a larger Renown Health initiative to improve child health in Reno, NV. You can read the press release here.
A group of us talked about the issue of homeless LGBT youth here in Reno, NV. The published numbers for Reno indicate that about 25% of Reno’s homeless youth identify as being LGBT, but it is believed to be a much higher number. It was explained to me that downtown Reno is a drop-off point for ex-cons being released from prison. So, we have this ex-con community on the streets that make many of the LGBT youth reluctant to identify themselves out of safety concerns (fear of being targeted by the ex-con community).
When I asked why the LGBT youth represent such a disproportionately high fraction of the homeless youth population, I was told it was mostly because their parents put them out of the house for being gay. One man who works with foster kids related the following story to me.
A couple had been foster parents to this girl whose age I do not know, She may have have been a teenager, but was probably younger. They had been living together as a family for a few years, and were nearing the end of the adoption process. They expected to sign the final adoption papers in a matter of weeks.
The foster parents noticed that something was troubling the girl, and asked her what was going on with her. When the girl resisted telling them, the foster parents assured her that she could tell them anything. The girl went on to reveal that she had crush on another girl at school, and thought that she herself might be a lesbian.
The next day, the girl was called to the school office where she was informed that her foster parents had decided not to proceed with the adoption, that they no longer wanted her in their house, and that a social worker would be taking her to a shelter that night.
I thought the story was heartbreaking.
I suppose that love has its limits, and it is sometimes not enough to overcome our ingrained biases and prejudices.