“Imagine being a residential adviser in a college dorm, struggling to bring order to a crowd of sleep-deprived, hormone- addled, and opinionated young people living away from home, some for the first time. Then subtract most of the high school diplomas and stable family histories, and add trauma to the mix and varying degrees of loneliness, anxiety, and stress. Then put everyone in crisis, perhaps with fresh wounds from fights with family or friends or pimps or recent abandonment by foster care. Add a handful of mental illnesses and addictions, the panic of having no permanent address, and try to make sure everyone gets along enough and keeps quiet enough so that the others can rest. The goal is to do all of this with unconditional love.”
“They emailed and asked me advice about where to go because they thought their parents might kick them out that night, and they didn’t live near any shelters. I have received the desperate phone calls from the staff of LGBTQ youth shelters that lost their funding and were faced with the devastating reality of telling youth they must sleep on the streets because there were no beds for them.” “…private philanthropy and public systems must offer funding to increase community capacity to support and house LGBTQ homeless youth. The Alliance believes broader LGBTQ adult community recognition and support for LGBTQ homeless youth could offer meaningful investment and solutions. A concerted community intervention and public investment could end youth homelessness in the 21st century.”
It just makes sense to meet human needs before they become more acute. That’s how Covenant House saves society millions of dollars, with its ability to provide thousands of young people with safe shelter, affordable health-care referrals, educational programs, and employment help. Rights of Passage, our transitional living program, costs less than fourteen thousand dollars per young person, for an average stay of seven months, compared to forty-seven thousand dollars per year to keep a kid in juvenile detention in California. “…I see that the pull of home, even a scary and sadistic one, is deeply ingrained in us all. Slowly, I came to understand why Benjamin, when he was four, would try to cross a four-lane road to return to the mother who had burned him— to him, she was also the source of the first comfort he had ever known, and he hoped beyond hope that she would comfort him again. I was amazed by the forgiveness and generosity Meagan showed to her family, who had kicked her to the curb. And Keith startled me when he turned the other cheek to his mother, who, he was told, had killed his father and then abandoned her three tiny sons. I remembered the philosopher Blaise Pascal, who wrote, “The heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of.””
In a recent study of five representative shelters by the Covenant House Institute: Calls from homeless youth to the National Runaway Switchboard increased 5 percent since 2011, 50 percent since 2009, and 80 percent since 2002. Only 41 percent have a high school diploma, 40 percent of the kids had been in foster care or another institutional setting, 38 percent had experienced physical abuse, and 40 percent of the teenage girls and young women had been sexually abused. Almost 80 percent of the young people were unemployed, 63 percent lacked health insurance, and more than 25 percent had been hospitalized for depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. More than 50 percent came from a family where someone used drugs regularly. Many of the kids have been told, over and over until it echoes in their heads like a voice of their own, that they are worthless and will never amount to anything.
7 “ Knowing is not enough; we must apply, Willing is not enough, we must do. — Goethe
Symptoms of trauma for the youth may be missed (impact of ongoing harassment, bullying or violence) Service providers are at a loss or overwhelmed There are limited programs and providers to refer to or there are waiting lists Youth were removed from homes and/or charged with illegal conduct such as commercial or survival sex, drug use, trafficking or theft Others enter State care as a status offender due to chronic truancy because they are afraid to go to school
rejected, neglected or abused by their families of origin forced to live on the streets engaged in illegal and self-harming behaviors in order to survive labeled “sex offenders” because their behavior is perceived or judged as deviant or perverse.
Increase funding for vulnerable LGBT youth population Improve access to health and mental health care Update service delivery systems to include Integrative Approaches Strengthen workforce to understand youth trauma and unique LGBTQ issues Improve organizational capacity via assessment of organizational trauma Create positive culture, establish points of accountability and encourage self-care of staff Research and Program Evaluation with all stakeholders (youth, families, school staff and community providers)
It is essential for providers to assist families in finding supportive networks, such as, Family Support Centers, PGLAG, GLSEN, HRC and GSE Develop performance measures to encourage better treatment for LGBTQ youth and families Serve youth in context of family services Include attention to diversity in faith and ethnic backgrounds Provide bi-lingual services Help families to reframe their child’s experience, and to form new expectations, ideals and goals. Locate any/all resources for youth to safely learn about LGBTQ issues, express and explore their identity and gain a sense of belonging
12 SCHOOL/ ACADEMIC EMPLOYMENT/ JOB READINESS RELIGIOUS/ SPIRITUAL PHYSICAL/ HEALTH RACE/ CULTURE PEER/SOCIAL SUPPORTS SEXUAL ORIENTATION/ GENDER IDENTITY MENTAL HEALTH/ PSYCHOLOGICAL PARENTS/ FAMILY/CARE- TAKERS Youth Working Holistically with LGBTQ Youth
Understand trauma- informed and Integrated approaches (Education, Substance Abuse, Juvenile Justice, Child Welfare, Health and Mental Health) Importance of practical applications for youth, such as life skill-development, strengths-based and resiliency focused Develop competence in understanding sexual and gender identity development process Learn how to engage and work with diverse families & family members of the LGBTQ youth Understand the impact of bullying on adolescent brain development, behaviors and their ability to learn Encourage creation of positive school culture and organization climates Learn how to work from a culturally competent foundation (Including ethnic, religious/spiritual affiliations)
Providers should have designated MSWs trained in trauma-informed care and activity managed continuity of care Implement evidence based screening instruments to be used in schools, medical centers, community-based programs Create additional LGBTQ affirmative housing options Continue to increase and improve existing programs and services, especially independent living & housing for 18-25 year olds Programs and services to strive to become less rule oriented and more relationship oriented via adoption of “no reject – no eject” policies.
While there are numerous websites and links for more resource information online, a large proportion of sources are national or “for your information” online. Many actual programs and services exist in large urban settings such as NYC and Phila. Youth may be in NJ systems because they are “caught” between these cities while in search of assistance. Some youth may even have “records” in three states due to their travel from NYC through NJ to Phila (and vice versa). Ongoing development of a comprehensive e-directory LGBTQ affirmative services, including: programs, information, health/mental health, substance abuse treatment, housing, peer to peer support & access to professionals, such as lawyers and social workers.