One Equal World

LGBT Homeless Youth on Rise in Atlanta

Posted on: November 17, 2015

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than 575,000 people were homeless in the United States in January 2014 – and nearly a fourth of them were under the age of 18. Estimations from numerous organizations show that the number of homeless youth is increasing; it’s hard to determine how many children do not have adequate housing and other provisions (due to their mobility).

Among the issue of youth homelessness, four years ago, a group of activists saw a dire need to address homeless LGBT youth to get off the streets of Atlanta and into safer places. Lost-N-Found Youth, the city’s only non-profit organization dedicated to helping LGBT youth into more permanent housing, was formed and almost 1,000 youth have been assisted to acquire jobs and into their own homes since that time.

The White House was lit up in rainbow colors in celebration of the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage on June 26, which indicated a growing acceptance of LGBT people across the nation. However, Rick Westbrook, executive director of Lost-N-Found Youth, says the need to help homeless young people has actually grown significantly in Atlanta:

“We went from seeing 75 kids a month in our drop-in center to 300 a month,” Westbrook said. “Our phone rings off the hook.”

The reason? “Backlash,” Westbrook said.

TV shows such as “I Am Cait” that chronicle the journeys of transgender people and the Supreme Court decision have led many young people across the nation to believe it was safe for them to come out to their families, Westbrook explained. Parents instead have promptly thrown kids out of their homes, leaving many teens and young adults to have to fend for themselves.

With approximately 750 homeless LGBT youth on the streets in Atlanta, parents kicking youth out of their homes for coming out is the largest reason for homelessness among LGBT youth.

“I would love to retire. But this problem isn’t going to get any better. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’re in the Bible belt and there are always going to be families that follow that book and adapt it for their needs,” Westbrook said.

Lost-N-Youth is currently seeking to raise $1 million so it can open shelter in the heart of Midtown Atlanta.

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