by Megan G.
For many youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), there exists a very real fear of becoming a part of the homeless statistic. A large number of LGBT youth find themselves without homes due in part to emotional and physical abuse that cause them to choose between fight or flight. For some, being kicked out of their home is the unfortunate outcome of coming out.
A former student of The College of New Jersey who identifies as transgender recollects his struggles of coming out in a community with limited resources. No longer able to attend TCNJ due to being cut off by his family, he has faced ongoing emotional abuse due to his gender identity.
“There are scant resources available for LGBT homeless youth. The homeless shelters that accommodate the general population are associated with a high incidence of homophobia and transphobia…Additionally, these shelters are segregated by birth sex. As far as emotional support, I struggled this summer to find a trans-support groups that was near me in Central Jersey.”
This student recollects the experience of having to leave college:
“…my mom demanded to know from a campus cop-with hysterical stridency-the location of the nearest police station so that she could leave me there, because she didn’t want me anymore…So for days, I bounced around from friend to friend, to Philadelphia, certain that I had been forced into the streets. I had packed my bags without the intention of ever fully unpacking them again.”
The reality of his situation is not uncommon. According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLT), 26% of LGBT youth who come out to their parents/guardians are kicked out of their homes. According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, 30% of LGBT youth have experienced physical abuse from their families when coming out. The NGLT states that out of the 2 million youth who experience homelessness each year 1 in 5 or 20-40% identify as LGBT. Such statistics beg the questions, who and where can these youth turn to?
Many LGBT youth find themselves in the foster care system, where centers often have no policies against sexual orientation discrimination. The New York Task Force (NYTF) reports that 78% of LGBT youth run away from their placements or were taken out of their placements because of hostility towards their gender identity or sexual orientation.
In Central New Jersey, no concrete data or reports exist explaining the issue of LGBT homeless and run-away youth in the community; however that is not to say the issue does not exist.
Mercer County is fortunate enough to be home to one of the three LGBT group homes in the entire nation. Tamra Hooks, program director of LifeTies –Triad House, explains that the group home “provides housing…for LGBTQ youth between the ages of 14 and 18 who are victims of abuse, neglect and/or homelessness.” Hooks explains that “many youth are reluctant to identify as an LGBT youth making it impossible for their case managers to make a referral to an appropriate program such as ours.” If interested in finding out more, Hooks encourages the community to get involved. LifeTies seeks “to establish relationships with other organizations that are willing to help raise awareness regarding LGBTQ youth issues.”
The fact that the Triad House is only one of three group homes in the entire nation that offers appropriate services for LGBT youth shows the desperate need for more organizations like it.
It is further pertinent that foster care agencies and shelters/group homes better serve the homeless community by adopting policies of non-discrimination for LGBT citizens and youth. This is the only way we can begin to combat the issue of LGBT youth who find themselves in unsafe environments with no support, resources, or places to go to in times of desperate need.
Contacts for LGBT Youth in Central Jersey:
•LifeTies: Triad House http://lifeties.org/
•Anchor House (609) 392-6100 info@
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of The Wall Newspaper.