I was going to head to the Empire Monday night ride in Central Park to catch up with my team and enjoy a recovery ride to celebrate all of the racers this weekend, but the Rally for Homeless Youth was at 6 pm in Washington Square Park. I have a long standing allegiance to the Ali Forney Center’s projects, and to helping homeless LGBTQ youth, so I knew I had to go. Ignoring this opportunity to show support would be similar to the way the needs of homeless youth are being ignored every day – and perhaps more importantly, every night.
Tonight’s rally served as the launch of a new campaign to fight homelessness among young people in the LGBTQ community, called the National Campaign for Youth Shelter. The campaign is powered by the Ali Forney Center and the National Coalition for the Homeless (with many other backers) and wants visible and drastic changes for the sheltering of LGBT homeless youth.
Not familiar with this crisis?
Here’s a quick snapshot of how important this is:
– National statistic: about 500,000 youth are homeless.
– About half are LGBTQ, but only about 5% of of the overall youth population is LGBT.
– Nationally, there are only about 4,000 shelter beds for homeless youth.
– Funding for youth shelter beds has been cut drastically.
– Homeless LGBTQ teens are more likely than straight homeless teens to be subjected to violence on the streets and in the homeless shelter system.
– Homeless LGBTQ youth suffer from higher rates of mental illness, trauma, HIV infection and substance abuse.
– About 1 in 4 new cases of HIV infection is among youth ages 13-24.
– Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men account for most new infections in the 13-24 age group.
– Homeless youth are at a higher risk of HIV infection if they trade sex for drugs, money, or shelter.
The campaign goals include:
1. A federal commitment to provide all youths age 24 and under with immediate access to safe shelter
2. An immediate commitment to add 22,000 beds and services for homeless youth
3. A more accurate and comprehensive effort to count the number of homeless youth in the nation in order to determine the number of beds that are needed over the next decade.”
This is a true crisis and an issue that the LGBTQ community needs to take on, because if we don’t stand up for our most vulnerable youth, who will? Many of these teens are kicked out of their homes because of their identities. They are harassed on the streets, shelter beds for them are not available, and the adult shelter system is not safe for them. Something must be done, and it’s our responsibility to demand it be done.
A second rally is scheduled to take place in Washington D.C. on December 8. For more information, click here.