As the Commonwealth enacts law to improve housing and services for homeless youth…
By Cathy Kristofferson, December 31, 2014.
Two years ago, on January 1st 2013, I posted here on OBLOGDEE about the ongoing plight of homeless queer youth. Every now and then that post gets renewed interest when someone quotes and/or links to it. That happened again last week when the “A Gay Dad’s Letter To Two Fathers Who Gave Up Their Christmas To Homeless Youth” story linked the post and made its way to wider circulation on HuffPo. Inevitably the pingback notification makes me smile and often leads to a good story. My smile, however, is always brief since I realize the plight of homeless queer youth has not improved since I asked “Will 2013 be the year the queer community does something about?” Melanie and I do hope, though, that by reading OBLOGDEE’s old post more folks become educated and are moved to act.
Today, seemingly out of nowhere, or perhaps propelled by the thought of an incoming Republican administration, the Massachusetts Senate and House have suddenly dusted off this year’s versions of a Bill first introduced in 2011 and passed An Act promoting housing and support services to unaccompanied homeless youths. (I was hoping to report that the Governor had signed the Bill but so far it’s status is still “Enacted and laid before the Governor“.) That Bill’s passage and near enactment, due in no small part to the dogged determination of homeless advocate Kelly Turley of MA Coalition for the Homeless, addresses all homeless youth while having specific language for several sub-categories including LGBTQ youth, and under 18 youth, of which so many are LGBTQ:
“(c) Subject to appropriation or third party reimbursement, the executive office of health and human services shall enter into performance-based contracts with organizations and agencies to provide housing and support services to address the needs of unaccompanied homeless youth in urban, suburban and rural areas of the commonwealth. …on identifying, connecting and serving unaccompanied homeless youth in general, as well as unaccompanied homeless youth under the age of 18 and youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, in particular.”
The Bill also codifies the Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth as it puts the Commission into state statute. I hope I get to remain on that Commission’s LGBTQ Working Group.
As we moved into 2015, and all eyes in the queer community fall on the Senator Merkley’s promised LGBT comprehensive non-discrimination legislation, let us stay diligent to ensure the most vulnerable among us – the homeless, the asylum seekers, the elderly – are accounted for and not left to fall by the wayside.
If you need an idea for something to work on in the interest of youth, I posted about emancipation as a tool for some homeless LGBTQ youth back in 2013 too. Here’s someone that could use some help with a similar but expanded idea made today following the tragic death of Leelah Alcorn.
Oh, and Carl Siciliano, the amazing youth advocate and founder of the Ali Forney Center, told me and the audience I was in to stop quoting 25-40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ because in reality 40% is the low end.
For a good intro into what homeless youth are forced to endure, here is a video promoting the Massachusetts Bill from last year: