Why Membership Matters to Youth

Through being a member of NCH, find out how you can help LGBTQ youth deal with the risk of homelessness. Here is some insight from our summer intern, Meghana Sthanam.

This summer, I am fortunate to be able to advocate for a problem I am truly passionate about: the disproportionately large number of LGBT individuals facing homelessness everyday. I’m originally from Birmingham, Alabama, where, almost unsurprisingly, you find a sizable population of LGBT youth without consistent housing. Most live with friends or stay at clubs, hoping to find a bed for the night by whatever means. Although I recognized the problem, after joining NCH, I realized this is a problem that plagues the entire country. In the general population, 3-5% of people self-identify as LGTBQ. Furthermore, studies have shown that the homeless LGBTQ youth population in theU.S.can be as high as 40%, almost half of the entire homeless population. It’s easy to see that young LGBTQ individuals inherently face greater risks of homelessness and discrimination simply by identifying themselves as a different sexual orientation or gender identity. I believe this issue deserves as much attention as other LGBTQ issues, such as gay marriage and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; we cannot continue with this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ thinking that has pervaded our culture.

There are so many ways our members can help. For those involved with shelters, whether an employee or shelter resident, using positive language to create a safe haven for LGBTQ individuals is essential.  By simply avoiding derogatory thoughts and actions, you can make a person feel more welcome, especially when that person is coming from a climate in which acceptance is lacking. For our youth members still in school: be a friend! The numbers show that an extremely high percentage of homeless LGBTQ have experienced harassment and abuse within their home and school. Thus, reaching out a friendly hand can make a huge difference in someone’s life. For individuals working with law enforcement, LGBTQ youth compose 13-15% of those currently in the juvenile justice system, often because of the school-to-prison pipeline, abandonment by their family or victimization in their schools. Lastly, to all our members: please continue to be an advocate!

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