Homelessness bothers me. A lot. My heart breaks a little inside every time I pass someone holding one of those small, handwritten cardboard signs. I wish I could help every one of them by offering them a safe, warm space to live. My family and I have started a tradition of putting together supply bags that we hand out, giving them toiletries, water, and a gift card for food. But I haven’t ever given them a home.
Who’s behind that sign? The faces are usually weathered. Tired. Defeated. Sometimes the face is younger; fewer wrinkles maybe, but the eyes still carry that same beaten-down hopelessness. And when it’s a young person, somehow it hurts a bit more… it’s hard enough to be a youth in today’s harsh world, but these kids — no more than children, really — don’t even have their own bed to sleep in, something I take for granted each night.
When you see a homeless young person, there’s a very good chance they’re LGBT. While these kids only make up 7% of the general population, LGBT youth represent 40% of all young people who are homeless. FORTY PERCENT. Nearly half of those kids out there without a home are LGBT.
That’s just staggering to me. According to a few articles I’ve read, LGBT youth are often homeless for different reasons than non-LGBT kids. Often, it’s because their family has rejected them.
And the harsh reality is that the world in general has too – and will probably continue to for their lifetime.
I’m grateful we’re making strides toward inclusion. They’re small steps, in reality, but there’s a tiny spot of awareness in this world that these people exist, and they matter. Forget for a moment about job discrimination, lack of services, and hate crimes. Think instead about the legalization of same-sex marriage, and the recent White House decision that says school students can use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.
Baby steps, for sure. But they’re steps that are at least moving in the right direction. And for these homeless LGBT youth — out there with no direction at all — at least baby steps are better than nothing.