Disproportionate presence of LGBTQ homeless youth requires action

On March 9, members of President Barack Obama’s administration traveled to Detroit, Mich. to host a national conference on homelessness in America. The administration worked in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Ruth Ellis Center.

This conference was unique in that its focus was on America’s LGBTQ community, predominantly its youth. The Obama administration’s challenge to the disproportionate presence of, and continued discrimination against, LGBTQ homeless youth is a welcome step in the right direction.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the number of homeless and runaway youth ranges from 575,000 to 1.6 million per year. According to a 2008 census released by the New York City Council, there are 4,000 homeless youths in New York City, and at least 1,000 are LGBTQ.

It has been found that between 20 percent and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University has stated that one in every three lesbian, gay and bisexual youths has been thrown out of his or her house.

These numbers are shocking and have shed light on yet another injustice that those in the LGBTQ community are forced to deal with. It is incredibly hypocritical that the notion of the “true American family” is used against gay marriage when family values are quickly thrown out the window once a child comes out to his or her parents. It is upsetting to think that so many parents are abandoning their children, leaving them susceptible to being assaulted, raped or killed because of something the child has absolutely no control over.

Hundreds of people who want to change these numbers and set up proper care for those who are homeless attended the conference in Detroit. Secretary for HUD Shaun Donovan highlighted the steps HUD has taken to ensure that everyone has “a place to call home.” These steps include HUD’s new Equal Access rule, which makes it so that no one can be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity when trying to access HUD-funded programs.

Donovan went on to connect the work and commitment to equal rights that HUD and the Ruth Ellis Center have put forth with the work of the Obama administration.

“All this work reflects a few simple values – values that President Obama articulated in his State of the Union address,” he said.

When it comes to state-level governments, there has been a movement that was coined the War on Women. States have been proposing bills left and right against abortion and birth control.

To those proposing such ideas, I ask, what about after the baby is born? Why aren’t these kids being protected? Why are bombs being set off in front of Planned Parenthood clinics but not on the doorstep of parents who have disowned their child? Why is a woman who’s had an abortion supposed to feel shame when a woman whose child died out on the streets lives without reproach?

This double standard must end. The conference and the ones soon following will hopefully open the eyes of those who are so adamant about protecting the unborn and broaden their thinking. If life is so important before birth, then it should be considered just as or more important after.

I am impressed with the Obama administration and HUD’s work so far within the sphere of LGBTQ homelessness, and I can only hope those working in lower levels of government will refocus or renew their efforts in combating this problem.

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