The New York City Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Runaway and Homeless Youth recently presented Mayor Michael Bloomberg with ten recommendations for improving the conditions of homeless LGBTQ youth in NYC [PDF]. Bloomberg is expecting that “the majority of recommendations will be implemented within the next year, while those that require additional funding will be rolled-out as private funds are identified.” In keeping with the recommendations in the report, Bloomberg has already directed that the drop-in centers for NYC’s Department of Youth and Community Development raise the age limit from twenty-one to twenty-four.
LGBTQ youth “make up between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth, a vastly disproportionate representation of these communities.” Homelessness can be particularly horrible for these individuals because it is often compounded by factors like racism (the majority of homeless LGBTQ youth are people of color), “family rejection, high rates of mental illness, and greater use of survival strategies that increase risk for HIV/AIDS”.
Previous recommendations included preparing LGBTQ homeless youth for independent living. Parents who don’t accept their LGBTQ son or daughter were seen “as the cause of the problem, rather than part of the solution”. However, this report shifts the focus from preparing youth for a life apart from their family to educating parents about sexual orientation and related issues. If parents are properly educated, perhaps youth would not become homeless in the first place. In the instances when education initiatives fail, the report recommends building alternative support systems for LGBTQ youth..
Commissioner Mullgrav stated “‘this report provides New York City with a blueprint for becoming the first community in the nation to comprehensively address the unique challenges facing runaway and homeless LGBTQ youth.’” We hope that NYC continues to implement the recommendations of the report, pioneering efforts to focus on this overrepresented portion of the homeless population. We also hope that other cities will follow NYC’s example.