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Young, gay and living on the street: LGBT youth face increased odds of homelessness

By in Press Enterprise on January 6, 2018

By EdSource

By CAROLYN JONES, EdSource

Throughout high school and college, Alicia slept in cars, tents, friends’ couches, benches, on the bus, on the train and in group homes. Almost anywhere but a shelter.

“My experience with shelters is that you’d go when it was raining. You’d go to San Francisco, wait in line and sleep on the floor, if you slept at all,” the serious, soft-spoken Oakland woman, who’s now 22, said last week. “It’s scary enough to be a young person there. But if you’re queer you just feel a lot more vulnerable. You definitely avoid them.”

Alicia is still homeless but lives at a youth shelter in Oakland. She asked that her real name not be used to protect her identity.

As the cost of housing continues to soar in California and elsewhere, an increasing number of young people have become homeless, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Among those homeless, one group has it especially tough: Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“There’s a myth of San Francisco as the ‘gay mecca,’” said Jodi Schwartz, executive director of Lyric, a nonprofit community center in San Francisco that serves LGBT youth. “It can be. But just for some.”

The reality, she said, is that many LGBT young people end up on the street or in unstable housing. Many are there because they’ve been rejected by their parents, peers or society in general due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

One measure of how many are affected comes from Lyric. Of the 600 mostly LGBT young people enrolled in Lyric’s programs in San Francisco, 56 percent are homeless or have unstable housing situations and all are low-income.

Across California and the nation, thousands of LGBT young people can be found on the street, in shelters or couch surfing with friends or relatives, said […]    

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