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Solutions

So what can we do to help reduce homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth?

We can recognize that there is a problem and commit to being part of the solution. We can stand up and speak up on behalf of young people who, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have been forced from their homes or run away out of fear and rejection. But the most important thing we can do is care.

Family Acceptance

Feeling loved and valued by family helps gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth love and value themselves. It also reduces the risk of suicide, depression, substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases among gay and transgender youth [1]. Knowing the risks, would you willingly withhold your love and acceptance from your child?

It’s been proven that, for parents and caregivers, even a little change – being a little less rejecting and a little more accepting – can make an important difference in reducing a young person’s risk for serious health problems, including suicide and HIV [2]. Families and foster families of gay and transgender youth can take a step in the right direction by talking with their child about their sexual orientation or gender identity and supporting them despite their own discomfort with the situation. Families can and should be advocates for their children, ensuring that they get fair treatment and respect from others. And, together, parents, caregivers, families and children can seek counseling from organizations and services that specialize in helping families understand, accept and love their child for who they are.

What can you do?

Resource: Family Acceptance Project’s “Supportive Families, Healthy Children

Resource: Parents, Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) Chapter Locator

Action: Support the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act

Build a Strong Network of Services

A number of stellar organizations have developed promising models for serving gay and transgender homeless youth. We can raise the quality of services and care available to these young people across our nation by sharing these models with like-minded organizations, ideally creating an extensive network of culturally competent service providers that all have nondiscrimination policies and confidentiality policies; train their staff and volunteers on the specific issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender homeless youth; and employ sound hiring practices.

What can you do?

Resource: Child Welfare League & Lambda Legal’s “Getting Down to Basics” Toolkit

Resource: National Alliance to End Homelessness’ “National Recommended Best Practices for Serving LGBT Homeless Youth

Resource: National Association of Social Workers’ “Moving the Margins

Educate and Engage the Public

Knowledge is power and it can change the world. We must educate more people on the seriousness of homelessness among gay and transgender youth and engage everyone to work toward a solution. Together, we can raise awareness of the causes and prevalence of youth homelessness in the gay and transgender population through reaching out to the people in our lives. We can increase support and early intervention for families struggling with their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and create safe spaces for those who’ve been shut out or cut off by their families.

What can you do?

Action: Share Your Story or Someone Else’s Story

Action: Watch and Share a Video

Solicit an Effective Government Response

Currently, only a fraction of federal and state funding dedicated to homeless youth services goes to programs designed to help gay and transgender homeless youth specifically [3]. Rather than accept this inequality we choose to get involved. You can help.

Tell your representatives in Washington to support efforts to help all of our homeless youth and to ensure that all of them have access to welcoming and inclusive services. Petition your members of Congress to help parents accept their gay and transgender in the hope of preventing them from becoming homeless or worse. Government can compel action that breeds acceptance and understanding, which will help to reduce the feelings of rejection that cause so many youth to leave home. But Washington won’t act until you make your voice heard.

What can you do?

Action: Join our Action Center

Stay Informed, Stay Involved

Join us in our mission to bring an end gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth homelessness. Be a part of the Forty to None Project.

Action: Follow us on Facebook | Twitter | Email (Look to your right!)

 

Footnotes
[1-2] Ryan, C. (2009). Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Children. Family Acceptance Project, San Francisco State University.
[3] Quintana, N. (2010). On the Streets: The Federal Response to Gay and Transgender Homeless Youth. Center For American Progress.

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