The Importance of LGBT Homeless Shelters and Greater Acceptence of LGBT Youth

Some good news comes out of New York today. $7 million dollars which was to be cut from the 2013 budget will now be restored. The Huffington Post has the story:

…on Tuesday, City Councilman Lewis Fidler told The Huffington Post that $7 million in cuts to homeless youth services will be restored to next year’s budget to match the previous year’s funding. The mayor’s initial proposed budget would have cut 60 percent from the current funding for homeless youth services, eliminating about 160 of 259 shelter beds. The budget will be voted on later this week by the City Council.

This type of funding is critically important for LGBT Youth like Paris Perez, who was turned out and abandoned by her family when she came out as transgender:

When Perez told her mom she was transgender, her mother left their Brooklyn apartment and moved with her younger sister to Pennsylvania, leaving behind Perez to fend for herself. “She couldn’t deal with it,” said Perez, shrugging.

Afterward, Perez couch surfed for a couple of months. When she couldn’t find a couch, she slept on the A train, the roof of a friend’s building or in city parks. Recently she has been staying at a shelter that doesn’t specialize in gay youth, where staffers referred to her by her “government-issued name and ‘he,'” Perez said.

At Ali Forney, it’s a different world, Perez said, pointing to the art covering the walls of one room. During an art therapy class, participants in programs — even those who don’t have a shelter bed — can work on art projects to “vent it out,” as Perez put it. Colorful abstract drawings, cardboard cutouts and a paper totem pole lined the walls. “It’s just so good to see that the staff actually takes the time to keep your stuff,” Perez said.

The ending quote from Perez sums up why homeless shelters are so important; especially to LGBT youth:

When asked about the city’s budget, Perez raised her arms in exasperation. “You see a problem, and we know how it’s going to be fixed: beds,” she said. Perez has recently begun classes at a beauty school and hopes to graduate so she can find a job and make it on her own. “That bed makes a whole complete difference. When I’m in a bed, I can wake up recharged and go out and apply for a job. Without a bed…” she paused and sunk into silence.

Like the old saying; it’s not hand-out; it’s a hand up. It’s providing assitance that will provide youth with a resource they need to make a better life for themselves.

The story from The Huffington Post also states that addtional money will be put into general child care and after school programs, which is great. Those kind of programs help everyone, but what also needs to be done is education. Education on LGBT issues and the community needs to happen in youth settings in order to create a greater acceptance and understanding of peers. Parent’s can learn from their children as much as children can learn from their parents. LGBT education and outreach programs has the potential to make stories like Paris’ a thing of the past.

Read the full article

Learn more about the Ali Forney Center

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