Resources and Support for Runaway, Homeless, and Transitioning LGBTQ Youth
LGBTQ Children Are Being Abused and Abandoned
We have all heard the stories of children harmed by close family members, caregivers, and even parents. These poor children are often removed from their homes to spend the rest of their childhoods bounced around foster homes, group homes, and even hotels.
Imagine being young and LGBTQ and trying to cope with emerging sexuality while simultaneously dealing with child abuse, sexual assault, being torn away from family, and attempting to blend in with a foster family who may not approve of minority sexual orientations or gender identities.
Imagine the feelings of hopelessness.
Additionally, many LGBTQ kids are abandoned in foster care by their birth parents. This rejection stings like an acid burn, and the feeling really never goes away. These youth often end up on the streets, on drugs, couch surfing, or even worse………prostituting for mere survival.
LGBTQ Youth Are More Likely To Be Involved in Sex Trafficking
Researchers at Arizona State University found in a 2014 study that LGBTQ youth reported higher incidence of sex trafficking experiences (45%) compared to heterosexual youth (28%).
Life is super hard when you don’t have family support and connections to help you maneuver young adulthood and transition to self-sufficiency. Adults often have very little tolerance for mistakes and growing pains. It’s like being in a jail without the bars.
When LGBTQ kids are abandoned or surrendered to the foster care system due to abuse, relationships with family members are irreparably damaged and ties are often permanently severed. Sadly, foster parents tend to act more like babysitters than absentee parents trying to help and heal hurt young people. Children for them often represent a mere source of income.
The Old Days
When I was in foster care in the late 80's, transitioning resources and support were scarce for youth, and child welfare acts were in the early stages of reform. Revised legislation has since added LGBTQ-specific services and transitional and independent living resources, as well as subsidies for higher education for children in the child welfare system. Today there are a number of valuable resources and tools to assist LGBTQ youth, enabling them to properly transition from foster care and to come in off the streets.
Today’s Resources and Supports
The Family & Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services supports community-based organizations in protecting runaway and homeless youth. Services include providing street outreach, emergency shelters, counseling, substance abuse referrals, HIV/AIDS testing and care, short-term and long-term transitional living, and maternity group home programs.
Programs that are available to assist homeless LGBTQ youth include:
- Basic Center Programs (BCP): These programs help to create and strengthen community-based programs that meet the immediate needs of runaway and homeless youth under 18 years old.
- Transitional Living Programs (TLPs): These programs support projects that provide long-term residential services to homeless youth. Young people must be between the ages of 16 and 22 to participate.
- Maternity Group Homes (MGH): This program supports homeless pregnant and/or parenting young people, as well as their dependent children. Participants must be between the ages of 16 and 22.
- Street Outreach Programs (SOPs)- SOPs focuses on developing relationships between outreach workers and young people that allow them to rebuild connections with caring adults. The ultimate goal is to prevent the sexual exploitation and abuse of youth on the streets.
- National Runaway Safeline: The National Runaway Safeline offers a crisis hotline and online services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to youth at risk of running away, those who have run away or are homeless, and their families.
Call: 1–800-RUNAWAY, Online: 1800RUNAWAY.org, or Text: 66008
Access to such programs to help youth is vital. Sadly, not all states and regions have LGBTQ runaway and homeless youth programs.
If you know of any LGBTQ young people who have run away, who are homeless, or who have transitioned out of foster care but who are not stable and safe, the programs listed above may be able to help.
These kids have been through hell in a hand basket. They are still in hell if they are on the streets. The last thing homeless young people need is someone imparting their religion, hand me down anecdotes, or judgement upon them. If you can’t help the children, don’t hurt them. Do no harm!
Thank you for caring, and please share these resources with others in the LGBTQ friends, supporters, and allies. If you only save one young person, you’ve made a difference.