Today the White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) partnered with the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit to host the first ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) Conference on Housing & Homelessness. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, who has taken a strong stand against LGBT housing discrimination, was the keynote for the morning session. One area of focus at the conference was the high incidence of LGBT youths becoming disconnected from their families which often results in homelessness.
While quantifying the number of LGBT youths in out of home care is often difficult because many youth hide their sexual orientation and gender identity, workers in the field consistently report that LGBT youths are disproportionately represented among youth in out-of-home care as well as among the 30,000 who transition from foster care in America each year. Studies show youths who leave foster care without a safe, permanent family reveal consistently negative life outcomes, including increased risk of homelessness. In fact, one study found that over 50% of youths who aged out of foster care experienced one or more episodes of homelessness. In addition, an estimated 1.6 to 1.7 million youth join the ranks of runaways and homeless each year. As a result of the dire need for more resources and supports for these young people, one of CWLA’s 2012 Legislative Agenda Priorities is improving services and supports for older youths who matriculate from foster care to independent adult status without parental or comparable supports.
Today’s conference also provided attendees with updates on recent executive action and reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment to the LGBT community. For example, on March 5, a new rule became effective that prevents discrimination in federally-funded housing based on perceived or actual gender identity or sexual orientation. Furthermore, HUD recently expanded the definition of homelessness to include youths under 25 years old, thereby granting LGBT youths better access and assistance in finding shelter and needed services. The Administration’s effort highlighting LGBT homeless youths is an important component of the risk facing vulnerable youth without permanency.