Congressional Equality Caucus presents briefing on LGBT homeless youth

By Victoria M. Rodríguez Roldán, Holley Law Fellow

This week the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus held a briefing on LGBT Youth Homelessness in Cannon House Office Building, and one by one, panelists called on Congress to reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.

Let us transport ourselves to a moment not too long ago in Milwaukee. DJ was a young, promising and bright teenager from the rural parts of northern Wisconsin. He was forced out of home because he was LGBT, which led him to migrate to the urban setting of Milwaukee. There, a penniless castaway from his home without support, he started engaging in survival sex in order to live in the streets. We last learn of him when the Pathfinders agency for homeless youth received a call from the Milwaukee Police Department – he had died of a drug overdose. They were the only people who came to the Coroner’s office to identify the body. He had nobody else in the world.

Unfortunately, stories like these are more common than just DJ. The Task Force’s study on LGBT Youth Homelessness in 2006 calculated that 40 percent of all homeless youth in the United States self identified as LGBT, a number that has been confirmed last year in the Forty to One Project’s National Survey of Service Providers working with LGBT youth who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. More tragically, the single largest cause of homelessness cited by such youths is family rejection, making this the direct result of homophobia and intolerance.

The national tragedy this represents is the very essence of why urgent action is needed when it comes to LGBT at risk and homeless youth. More funding is needed for the programs that aid homeless youth, and more awareness of the subject is needed. But above all, a greater tolerance and acceptance in families, schools and in the community at large is essential to be able to prevent more youth from being rejected and marginalized to the point of ending up in the streets. This is what we owe to DJ and to all of America’s LGBT youth.