Today’s guest post was written by Alliance federal policy intern Sam Storey.
LGBTQ youth homelessness in New York City has reached worrisome levels; the most recent calculations suggest that 40 percent of the estimated 4,000 homeless youth in NYC today identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
In response to these statistics, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has begun to implement a plan to end LGBTQ youth homelessness for good.
In 2009, Mayor Bloomberg formed the New York City Commission for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Runaway and Homeless Youth. The Commission – the first of its kind formed by a municipality – is comprised of 24 civic leaders from a diverse group of organizations including representatives from the police department, housing agencies, community leaders, and runaway and homeless youth providers.
The Commission identified building family connections and facilitating safe family reunification as a primary strategy to end LGBTQ youth homelessness. They found that, with assistance, the majority of runaway and homeless youth return to their families and that families play an essential role in preventing serious health risks in the future by showing accepting of their child’s LGBTQ identity.
The Commission therefore established that it is incumbent upon the City to implement pilot family reunification projects. Through testing innovative strategies to build family acceptance and support for LGBTQ youth, the City hopes to prevent and rapidly end the homelessness of LGBTQ youth while helping to build a more accepting and supportive environment for youth to grow.
Three foundations have provided matching funds to support a pilot family intervention project, including The MAC AIDS Fund, Henry van Ameringen Foundation, and New York Community Trust. Green Chimneys and SCO Family of Services both received funding from the grant program and each organization is expected to serve 15 homeless or at-risk LGBTQ youth and their families.
As a part of the pilot program, trained family clinicians from Green Chimneys and SCO Family of Services will provide 12 to 15 sessions of family counseling to families willing to accept services. The organizations’ clinicians and therapists have expertise in working with LGBTQ youth and experience mediating family conflicts.
The organizations are committed to serving youth and families from diverse backgrounds; youth of color are at particularly high risk of homelessness and family rejection. The providers will therefore be trained to use a culturally grounded approach to help families of diverse ethnicity, social and religious backgrounds decrease their rejecting behavior and increase support for their LGBTQ children.
We at the Alliance commend New York City for taking such direct and actionable steps toward ending LGBTQ youth homelessness and encourage service providers elsewhere to take note of this plan.