A report released by the Allegheny County Department of Human Services ‘I’ll never get used to it: Young People Living on the Street’ confirms that at least one-third of the number of homeless youth (ages 18-24) in our region are LGBTQ and most say a lack of family support is why they are not living with family. National averages range from 20-40% with young queer men typically having higher numbers among the homeless youth on the streets.
Keep in mind that LGBTQ people make up about 3-5% of the general population.
The report delves into the social service supports in place that welcome and are utilized by youth in this age group, including assessing the LGBTQ competency of the various providers. It finds that a patchwork approach to service provision doesn’t meet the needs and creates the additional barrier of transportation from program to program.
The report has 4 key recommendations
1. Expand the eligibility window for existing services through age 24
2. Plan services for 18- through 24-year-olds which includes engaging young people and counting young people:
3. Open a drop-in center in/near downtown; or open shelters during the daytime to serve as drop-in centers
4. Increase shelter options for youth – this includes ensuring ALL shelters are LGBTQ competent.
The GLCC/Persad joint effort to provide a drop-in center through the SAY Alliance was part of this report and received good marks for making do with what was possible, noting that Persad lost street outreach funding in 2013. So there is not a single LGBTQ organization on the street reaching out to youth.
I’m curious how plans to upscale Downtown would resonate with any plan to create a drop-in center. They could with an investment of real resources by the City, County, the Foundations and the commitment of partners such as the Cultural Trust and Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership.
LGBTQ competency is a serious issue, especially as faith based providers receive more federal funding to provide social services. At least two partners in the SAY alliance who come to the GLCC are Catholic. There’s a distinction between a person who belongs to a community of faith that is not LGBTQ affirming and an organization that requires participation in faith based activities to receive services or supports. My personal experience is that the individuals involved just want to help people. But the perception is important.
I’m puzzled why HUD requires street outreach to be tied to shelter services. Doesn’t it make more sense to have LGBTQ groups like Persad on the ground connecting youth to shelters that are competent, perhaps having been trained by Persad which also has that capacity?
There are a few things you can to do take action
First, you can attend the Homeless Youth Summit on November 14 at the Wyndham.
Second, you can get involved in advocacy efforts. Contact your members of Allegheny County Council, your State Representative and let them know that youth homelessness is an important issue to you. Find out what they are doing. Read the report and review the action steps. Figure out where you come in to play.
Third, you can support existing programs. Contribute financially to Persad, the GLCC and Project Silk to keep those programs flourishing. Donate items requested – clothing, blankets, personal care products, and more. Donate food for the meals. Donate portable snacks for on the go.
Finally, you can volunteer. You can sign up to work the desk 4 hours once a month and be the friendly, welcoming face to all youth in need of services. You can become a mentor. You can sort, fold and organize the clothing closet. You can organize a fundraiser. You can lead a workshop on a life skill you believe is critical. Just a few hours a month keeps the doors open and the space accessible.
The GLCC is set to celebrate 20 years of providing youth services in 2015. How sad that things haven’t gotten much better for our young people.