Earlier today, representatives from PFLAG National’s policy team were invited to attend a White House press conference where the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) submitted Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Present and End Homelessness to the President. A critical mass of federal, state and local government entities along with faith-based and community organizations informed the plan, which aims to end chronic homelessness in the next five years, promising more effective coordination among 19 federal agencies that all work to assist individuals seeking stable housing and economic empowerment.
We applaud USICH for including the unique needs of homeless youth in its report. Shockingly, estimates suggest that the number of homeless youth range somewhere between 1.6 million and 2.8 million. Of that number, between 20 to 40 percent are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ). Opening Doors acknowledges that youth often leave home as a result of family rejection and severe family conflict that may include physical and/or sexual abuse. It also mentions that young people become homeless when they “leave foster or institutional care (including running away, aging out, or being discharged).” Away from home, many of these young people who are LGBTQ face blatant discrimination when trying to access alternative housing, which is exacerbated by institutionalized discrimination in federally funded programs.
At PFLAG, we know all too well what it feels like to receive a phone call from a young person seeking safe and supportive housing after being kicked out of their home because they are LGBTQ. We also know the unfortunate reality that far too many existing shelters remain unsafe and grossly unprepared to meet these young people’s unique needs. Because of this experience, we will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that all youth shelters available are culturally competent and inclusive for all youth in need. We will also continue to ensure that data collection on these vulnerable populations captures the lived experiences of LGBTQ young people. If you are interested in learning more about PFLAG’s work on this initiative, please contact us today!