Tuesday, November 20, 2012

LGBTQ Homeless Youth Act of 2012

Yesterday, Council Members Cheh and Graham introduced a piece of legislation (LGBTQ Homeless Youth Act (B19-1012) of 2012) seeking to amend the Human Services Reform act , the act that defines the District's continuum of care for homeless services . The timing of this legislation is auspicious in that November is Homeless Youth Awareness Month, and hopefully a signal that the Council has taken the clear and immediate issue of youth homelessness to heart and is committed to taking the steps necessary to address this issue locally.

DCAYA's Executive Director Maggie Riden, in addition to a number of DCAYA member organizations and allies, testified before the Committee on Human services on the proposed amendment. Our testimony focused on why LGBTQ youth are at an especially high risk for experiencing homelessness, but also why the current set of services offered by the District is woefully inadequate. For instance, nationally up to 40% of the nation’s homeless youth identify as sexual minorities and available local data and research tell us as many as 2,000 LGBTQ youth are pushed out or make the decision to leave their homes each year. We also know that demand for LGBTQ services rapidly outpaces supply. Youth providers have reported waiting lists in excess of 90 young people.

Furthermore, national surveys tell us that when LGBTQ youth are in adult shelters, they are 10 times more likely than their straight peers to be sexually abused or to experience sexual misconduct by staff. Though many youth-serving housing providers in DC have taken steps to ensure staff training and safe spaces are provided for LGBTQ youth, these appropriate placements are often at capacity. This leaves staff to find referrals where quality of care may be unknown. 

Currently the only housing service in the District dedicated to homeless LGBTQ youth is  an 8-bed transitional living home run by Transgender Health Empowerment. There are currently zero beds available specifically to LGBTQ youth for emergency shelter/respite care.The reality is that we as a community lack capacity to meet the most basic need of nighttime safety for every youth; and we fall particularly short for those who are sexual minorities. 

DCAYA and our partners also offered up a number of recommendations to Council Members Graham and Cheh to help strengthen the legislation that we very much hope are taken into account moving forward. You can read full DCAYA's testimony and that of our partners on dc-aya.org, and don't forget to we're celebrating Youth Homelessness Awareness Month ALL of November! Learn more about our photo and awareness campaign here.

For more information on DCAYA's advocacy around homeless and unstably housed youth, please visit us at Dc-aya.org or email us here.

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