July 28, 2017 at 12:32 am PDT | by Lorri L. Jean
The young and the homeless

Imagine waking up every day without money, not knowing whether you’ll have anything to eat or a safe place to lay your head at night. That’s the reality for thousands of LGBT youth in Los Angeles who are experiencing homelessness. Recently we learned just how big the problem is.

The 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count found that there are nearly 6,000 youth experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County on any given night. Nationally, it is estimated that 20%-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. In a study of homeless youth in Hollywood, one of the most popular destinations for them, nearly 40% identified as being LGBTQ.

These are young people who’ve frequently been rejected by their families, victimized by predators, and/or made outcasts by their communities—all simply for being who they are.

Many face threats of abuse, sexual assault, and drug addiction—and the Los Angeles LGBT Center is one of the few places they can turn to for help. Since last year, we’ve been seeing more young people at our doors, turning to our youth center for three meals a day, hot showers, and access to our clothing closet. In the past 12 months, the number of visits to our youth center has increased by double digits.

But more than meeting their basic needs, including medical care and counseling, we’re helping young people develop the skills, resources, and confidence to make it on their own through GED preparation and high school completion programs, college scholarships, an employment program, leadership development program, and whatever they need to get off the streets for good.

The parents of one member of our youth center, Kenny, told him “you’re better off killing yourself” after he refused “treatment” to “cure” him of being gay. He found out about the Center’s services online and bought a bus ticket here, hoping we could help. Fortunately, we were able to give him one of our 58 beds right away, without him having to spend a single night on the streets.

But, Kenny is one of the lucky ones.

LGBT young people hit the streets with hopes of escape and a better life. Once they spend time living on the streets, they are at risk of sexual exploitation or trafficking and are likely to turn to drugs to cope with it all. Trans youth face significant challenges in entering the workforce and finding meaningful careers, so they’re even more likely to turn to sex work. Alarmingly, it’s estimated that nearly half of trans women nationwide—particularly trans women of color—will become infected with HIV if their livelihoods aren’t improved.

Lorri L. Jean is the CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. (Photo courtesy of Los Angeles LGBT Center)

For nearly five decades, the Center has been caring for homeless LGBT young people ages 24 and under, and I urge you to help us get them off the streets.

If you encounter a homeless youth, tell them about the Center’s services. Our Youth Center is located at 1220 N. Highland Ave. in Hollywood, and its doors are open 7 days a week. We can connect people with a case manager 15 minutes after stepping into our facility.

Make a donation via our website at lalgbtcenter.org. Your contribution of as little as $10 will fund a full day of meals for a young person who’s depending on us for support.

You probably didn’t know that our youth center offers education support to youth who didn’t finish high school through our on-site GED preparation programs and charter high school. If you can spare a few hours a week to tutor them, contact our Volunteer Resources department at volunteer@lalgbtcenter.org.

Drop off gently-used professional attire. The youth have access to a clothing closet so that they can present well for job interviews. Approximately 80% of the youth in our Transitional Living Program are working, in school, or both.

By giving to the Center, your support will immediately provide youth with food and a hot shower, emergency and transitional housing, education support, and employment counseling. You can give them the better life they so desperately want and deserve.

LA LGBT Center, gay news, Los Angeles Blade

Groundbreaking on the Anita May Rosenstein Campus. (Photo courtesy of Los Angeles LGBT Center)

In two years, we will open the transformational Anita May Rosenstein Campus in Hollywood. Spanning more than a city block along Santa Monica Boulevard, this intergenerational campus will contain up to 100 beds for homeless youth (nearly double the number we currently have), new senior and youth centers, and up to 35 units of supportive housing for young people. It will be an iconic landmark that will serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for people around the globe.

Two years is still a long time. Together, let’s make a commitment to take care of LGBT homeless youth today.

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